ABOUT THE COALITION
The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to lead in the development and implementation of community strategies to prevent and end homelessness.
The Coalition was established in 1982, incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 1988, and has evolved to be the lead agency coordinating the community response to homelessness in Houston. Under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, passed in 2009, an entire community rather than individual service providers must demonstrate success in preventing and reducing homelessness. In 2011, HUD named Houston as a priority community. This designation recognizes the great need to transform Houston’s existing homeless service system and the tremendous opportunity to make significant advances due to the commitment of homeless service agencies and the contributions of key community stakeholders.
Accordingly, the Coalition is the lead agency coordinating Houston’s response to homelessness, and as such serves as the primary organizer for the projects that are creating the community’s Continuum of Care. This work creates an improved homeless service system that more effectively provides services, support and housing to all sub-populations within Houston’s homeless community, with a primary focus on moving individuals and families out of homelessness.
The ultimate goal of the Coalition is the creation of a homeless service system that achieves reduction in new instances of, length of, and returns to homelessness, and meets the varying needs of homeless sub-populations such as unaccompanied youth, veterans and families with children.
Broadly, the Coalition works to prevent and end homelessness by:
- Liaising with government at the local, city, state and federal levels;
- Supporting homeless service providers; and
- Advocating on behalf of the homeless.
The Coalition is the lead agency coordinating Houston’s response to homelessness, and as such serves as the primary support organization for the community’s Continuum of Care.
In addition, the Coalition delivers a number of focused programs and services, including the Consumer Advisory Council, Homeless Court, the Homeless Management Information System, the Homeless Services Coordinating Council, Houston Community Voice Mail, and the Point-In-Time Enumeration and Needs Assessment. (These are all described below).
Finally, the Coalition in a partnership with 2-1-1, also provides information and referral services, both for homeless service providers and for people who are homeless.
The HMIS (short for Homeless Management Information System) is a computerized data collection tool specifically designed to capture client-level, system-wide information over time on the characteristics and services needs of men, women and children experiencing homelessness. HMIS allows the aggregation of client-level data across homeless service agencies to generate unduplicated counts and service patterns of clients served.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Data and Technical Standards establish baseline standards for participation, data collection, privacy and security. Implementation of HMIS is a requirement for receipt of HUD McKinney-Vento funding.
The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County/Fort Bend County area is the local HMIS lead agency.
Click here for more information on the HMIS.
The Homeless Services Coordinating Council (HSCC) was established in 1993 by the Coalition as a membership-driven workgroup to assist homeless service providers. Council members meet on a monthly basis to collaborate, share information and best practices and access educational and training opportunities.
Click here for more information on the HSCC.
The Houston Community Voice Mail (HCVM) Program provides free voice mail service to individuals, families with children and youth experiencing homelessness, and is managed by the Coalition. This initiative provides voice mail lines to more than 100 agency programs in Harris County/Fort Bend County, whose case managers in turn provide lines to their clients to access their voicemail. This program thus enables homeless persons to connect to job opportunities, housing, healthcare, information and hope for the future.
Click here from more information.
Homeless Court (HC), established in 2006, is a program coordinated by the Coalition that enables homeless defendants to resolve outstanding class C misdemeanor offenses within the City of Houston’s Municipal Court system. Houston’s HC is a partnership among city courts, the Coalition, local shelters and service providers allowing homeless defendants to meet traditional sentence requirements (often fines, public work service, and/or time in jail) through service program activities such as chemical dependency meetings, computer literacy classes and job skills training. Referrals are initiated by homeless service provider case managers and submitted to the Coalition.
Click here from more information.
The Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) is a group of people who have experienced homelessness or received homeless services who have been brought together to serve as a liaison between service providers and people who are homeless. It was formed by the Coalition in July 2010 to enhance communication between the homeless community, the Coalition and homeless service providers. It is working to improve methods of combating homelessness, eliminate barriers and provide the homeless with a voice in citywide issues involving homeless services.
Click here from more information.
The Point-In-Time (PIT) Enumeration and Needs Assessment is a program conducted by the Coalition and is required of all communities receiving HUD funding. The PIT enumeration engages more than 500 volunteers to conduct the count and survey the Houston homeless population during one night in January each year. In the spring of each year, in-depth needs assessment interviews are conducted with representatives from homeless sub-populations. The goal of this program is to guide strategic changes to the homeless service system by ensuring that current information is available on the scope of homelessness in our community and the current needs and gaps in services.
Click here from more information.
The best way for these organizations to get connected to the Coalition is by joining the Homeless Services Coordinating Council. Click here for more information on the HSCC.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a regional or local planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals.” This concept is based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.
The Continuum of Care for Houston, Harris/Fort Bend County serves two main purposes:
- To develop a long-term strategic plan and manage a year-round planning effort that addresses:
○ The identified needs of homeless individuals and households;
○ The availability and accessibility of existing housing and services; and
○ The opportunities for linkages with mainstream housing and services resources.
- To prepare an application of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act competitive grants.
The Coalition serves as the lead agency for the Continuum of Care. The chief duties of the lead agency include:
- Staffing the planning committees;
- Producing planning materials;
- Coordinating needs/gaps assessments;
- Collecting and reporting performance data;
- Monitoring program performance;
- Coordinating resources;
- Integrating activities and facilitating collaboration;
- Preparing the collaborative application for CoC funds;
- Building awareness;
- Recruiting stakeholders; and
- Managing the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
HOMELESSNESS IN HOUSTON
Our most recent information indicates that on a given night there are approximately 8,768 homeless persons in our area, including 3,824 people living unsheltered, 3,532 living in sheltered facilities, and 1,412 in the Harris County Jail.
Those data reflect the results of the annual Point In Time Enumeration, which provides a snapshot of homelessness on a given night.
Measured in terms of the total number of persons accessing homeless services in a year, there were 22,781 people who were homeless in this area in 2011, as captured by HMIS.
Based on the Coalition’s 2012 Point In Time Enumeration and 2012 Needs Assessment Report, 22% of homeless individuals here—or about one in four—are in families with children, and 22% are veterans.
Download: View 2012 PIT Executive Summary
Factors contributing to homelessness in our area are generally the same as those in other areas of the U.S.
Triggers for homelessness in this area during 2011 and 2012 are shown in the chart below. (insert Triggers of Homelessness chart, truncating the list below entry #8 – Changes in family status; rename chart to Major Triggers of Homelessness in the Houston Area)
As you can see, economic conditions are currently playing a large role, with “loss of job” forming the largest category.
In addition, according to the 2012 Needs Assessment Report and 2012 Point In Time Enumeration:
- Nearly 50% of homeless persons here reported receiving no income, whether from employment, earned income, veterans or disability benefits or other similar sources.
- 34% of people living on the streets were categorized as chronically homeless.
- More than 25% of homeless persons here reported “the street” as the place they stayed the longest during the last 12 months.
Passage of the 2009 Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act put into place requirements to coordinate various HUD and other federal funds to prevent and end homelessness.
To aid certain communities in the implementation of the HEARTH Act, HUD designated ten Priority Communities across the country. The Houston/Harris County/Fort Bend County Continuum of Care was designated as one of these HUD Priority Communities.
This designation was based on the high rate of homelessness, especially chronic homelessness, in this area combined with the potential to improve systemic performance.
Our most recent information indicates that there are approximately 8,700 homeless persons in our area on a given night.
Here are comparable figures for other large Texas cities:
- Austin-Round Rock – 2,362
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington – 5,865
- El Paso – 1,331
- San Antonio – 3, 222
Clearly, this region has a lot of work to do—the Houston total is nearly the same as that of the two next-largest homeless populations combined (i.e., Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington plus San Antonio).
The fact that our region was identified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a priority community indicates that we have a lot of work to do to improve our region’s response to the challenge of homelessness.
For reference, below are comparative figures for the 10 largest cities in the U.S. All data are taken from 2011 Point In Time Counts, which reflect the number of homeless persons on a given night (CoC = Continuum of Care).
|New York City CoC||51,123|
|Los Angeles City and County CoC||45,422|
|San Diego City and County CoC||9,436|
|City of Houston/Harris County||8,471|
|San Jose/Santa Clara City and County CoC||7,067|
|Phoenix/Mesa/Maricopa County Regional CoC||5,831|
|Dallas City and County/Irving CoC||3,540|
|San Antonio/Bexar County CoC||3,222|
HOMELESSNESS IN THE US
While probably everyone has some idea of what it means to be homeless, in the context of service delivery and the development of strategies to prevent and end homelessness, it’s important to be precise.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are four categories of homelessness:
Literally Homeless – An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning:
- Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation;
- Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state and local government programs); or
- Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.
Imminent Risk of Homelessness – An individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, provided that:
- Residence will be lost within 14 days of the date of application for homeless assistance;
- No subsequent residence has been identified; and
- The individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing.
Homeless under other Federal statutes – Unaccompanied youth under 25 years of age, or families with children and youth, who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition, but who:
- Are defined as homeless under the other listed federal statutes;
- Have not had a lease, ownership interest, or occupancy agreement in permanent housing during the 60 days prior to the homeless assistance application;
- Have experienced persistent instability as measured by two moves or more during the preceding 60 days; and
- Can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time due to special needs or barriers
Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence – Any individual or family who:
- Is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence;
- Has no other residence; and
- Lacks the resource or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 36,911 persons homeless in Texas in 2011, which means that approximately 15 out of every 10,000 persons in Texas are homeless.
This number remained basically unchanged from the 2009 count.
According to HUD’s most recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report (2010), there are 649,879 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
Of that number:
- 241,621 are people in families, and 408,258 are individuals.
- 17% (109,812) of the homeless population is considered “chronically homeless” and
- 14% of homeless adults are veterans HUD, 2011 Point-In-Time Estimates of Homelessness: Supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report.
While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing. (Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness)
A variety of additional factors can contribute to the problem; chief among these are poverty, a decline in levels of public assistance, lack of affordable health care, mental illness and addictive disorders.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, families experiencing homelessness are similar to other, housed families living in poverty. In fact, many poor families—homeless or not—share similar characteristics: they are usually headed by a single woman with limited education; are usually young; and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness.
Some families living in poverty fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing.
Fortunately, homelessness among families is typically not a long-term experience. About 75% of families who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance, and never return. Some families, however, require more intensive assistance.
One of the most important strategies for lifting families from homelessness is rapid re-housing. The more quickly families are connected with permanent housing, the more quickly their homelessness can be solved and their lives can return to relative stability. Similarly, prevention strategies—in the form of cash assistance, housing subsidies, and other services—can avert homelessness before it starts.
The federal government’s primary response to homelessness is embodied in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It funds proven solutions to homelessness. The bipartisan HEARTH Act of 2009 reauthorized the program to increase its emphasis on using outcomes and research to drive programmatic decisions.
The Homeless Assistance Grants appropriations account funds two programs: the competitive Continuum of Care (CoC) program and the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) block grant program. The HEARTH Act consolidated several previous programs into the CoC program, which funds proven interventions, like cost-effective permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people. The ESG block grant funds emergency shelter and adds a new focus on the cost-efficient interventions of homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing.
I notice a lot of abbreviations and acronyms in information about homelessness. Do you have definitions for these?
Here are explanations of some of the most commonly used abbreviations and acronyms that are relevant to local efforts to prevent and end homelessness:
|AHAR||Annual Housing Availability Report|
|APR||Annual Performance Report (Annual Progress Report for homeless programs)|
|CDBG||Community Development Block Grant (CPD Program)|
|CHDO||Community and Housing Development Organization. Non-profit housing provider receiving minimum of 15% of HOME Investment Partnership funds|
|CoC||Continuum of Care approach to assistance to the homeless|
|Continuum of Care||Federal program stressing permanent solutions to Homelessness|
|Con Plan||Consolidated Plan, a locally developed plan for housing assistance and urban development under the Community Development Block Grant and other CPD programs|
|CPD||Community Planning and Development (HUD Office of)|
|Data Warehouse||Information system storing HUD program and operational data|
|ESG||Emergency Solutions Grants (CPD program; formerly Emergency Shelter Grants)|
|Fair Housing Act||1968 act (amended in 1974 and 1988) providing HUD Secretary with fair housing enforcement and
|FEMA||Federal Emergency Management Administration|
|FHA||Federal Housing Administration (HUD Office of Housing)|
|FHAP||Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHEO program). Program assisting State/local govt with process fair housing complaints.|
|GPRA||Government Performance and Results Act. Requires Federal Agencies to establish performance
standards and report on results.
|HEARTH Act||Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act|
|HMIS||Homeless Management Information System|
|HOME||Home Investment Partnerships (CPD program)|
|HOPWA||Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (CPD program)|
|HUD||U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development|
|LIHTC||Low Income Housing Tax Credit|
|MOU||Memorandum of Understanding|
|NOFA||(HUD) Notice of Funding Availability|
|PHA||Public Housing Authority|
|PSH||Permanent Supportive Housing|
|PULSE||The Homelessness PULSE project|
|RFP||Request for Proposals. Used to solicit proposals for contracts under the negotiated procurement method.|
|Section 8||Housing Assistance Payment Program (Housing and Community Development Act of 1974)|
|Section 202||Loans for construction/rehab of housing for the elderly or handicapped|
|Section 202/811||Programs for housing assistance to the elderly and people with disabilities|
|SRO||Single-Room Occupancy. Mortgage insurance under Section 221(d) for single room apartments.|
|Super NOFA||HUD’s consolidated approach to issuance of Notices of Funding Availability|
|TANF||Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Click here for a glossary of terms related to this program.|
|TDHCA||Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs|
|VA||Veterans Affairs (U.S. Department of)|
A more extensive list of abbreviations associated with HUD programs is available here
THE HOMELESS MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM
HMIS stands for Homeless Management Information System. HMIS is a software application designated to record and store client-level data, including the characteristics and service needs of the homeless community. It was developed in a response to Congress’s request for unduplicated information about how the funds appropriated for homeless programs are being spent. Congress is not only interested in fiscal responsibility, but also wants to know who the homeless are (as a group) as well as understand the outcomes of the programs assisting them. In March 2010, HUD updated the standards relating to data collection and reporting.
All agencies receiving federal funds from the McKinney-Vento HUD Program for use in serving the homeless community are required to participate in the HMIS. Starting in 2011, Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) providers are also required to participate. Additionally, your agency may have to use the HMIS if you operate certain programs funded by the VA, HHS, SAMHSA, or other government and private funders. However, domestic violence victim service providers are prohibited from entering client data in the HMIS because of the federal law (VAWA).
Yes! We would be very pleased to have your agency participate in HMIS if you provide services and/or shelter to the homeless community. The more information we have the better. The information helps to provide a more accurate picture of the homeless community in the Houston/Harris County/Ft. Bend County area. If your agency is interested in participating in HMIS, please send an inquiry to HMIS@homelesshouston.org.
Having access to the HMIS represents a strategic advantage for service providers. The HMIS software we use allows multi-level client data sharing between organizations, as well as client case coordination and electronic referrals. Our locally developed information sharing model can prevent service duplications and enable collaboration between various homeless service providers, while limiting access to sensitive data. Client privacy is very important to us.
In addition to the standard data collection and reporting functionalities, the HMIS software includes a comprehensive case management module, bed management, performance measurement tools, ad-hoc reporting, software customization options, etc.
Lastly, providers already in HMIS are better positioned to apply for future funding opportunities, as many national and local funders now require HMIS participation.
The HMIS software currently used in Houston/Harris County/Ft. Bend County is called ClientTrack. It was developed by ClientTrack, Inc. (formerly DSI), a privately held company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. ClientTrack software is compliant with the latest HMIS data standards as well as HIPAA privacy standards. For more information about ClientTrack, please visit their website.
The preferred way to communicate with the Coalition HMIS Support Team is to send an IssueTrak ticket. IssueTrak is a help desk software application available to all active HMIS users. Any questions, requests, or other issues should be submitted through IssueTrak. Every ticket submitted is assigned a tracking number, allowing the HMIS team to effectively address each concern.
For general questions about the HMIS, or if you have problems accessing IssueTrak, please send an email to HMIS@homelesshouston.org.