The 20 Continuums of Care with the largest homeless populations in the U.S., Public Housing Agencies and Programs, and Homeless Admission Preference

See Each Percent of New Homeless Household Admissions in Table Below

There was an annual decrease in the total number of persons counted as homeless in the United States during the seven years between 2011 and 2016. However, there was a slight increase in 2017.

As a promising practice, a homeless admission preference has the potential to reverse the increase and save millions of dollars spent on managing homelessness instead of ending it as noted below. It also has the potential of saving thousands of lives of people sleeping on the streets for too many have experienced tragic and gruesome deaths also noted below.

Background Information

The table below lists the answers that Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) gave to the 20 Continuums of Care (CoCs) with the largest homeless populations in the U.S., who were asked two questions by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that focused on local PHAs and homeless admission preference in section 1C-4 of their 2017 Continuum of Care Program application.

The 20 CoCs were asked to provide the following information for up to five of the largest PHAs in their geographic area:

  • identify the percentage of new admissions to the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs in the PHA’s last fiscal year that were homeless at the time of admission; and
  • indicate whether the PHA has a homeless admission preference in its Public Housing and/or HCV program.

The answers in the table below reveal that of the 64 Public Housing Agencies listed,

  • 22 or approximately one-third (34.4%) had a percentage of 10% or less of new admissions to the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs in the PHA’s last fiscal year that were homeless at the time of admission;
  • 16 or one-fourth (25%) had a percentage of 50% or higher of new admissions to the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs in the PHA’s last fiscal year that were homeless at the time of admission;
  • 53 or more than three-fourths (82.8%) of PHAs had a general and/or limited homeless preference in their public housing and/or HCV programs.

Cost-effectiveness of Housing Homeless Persons Instead of Leaving Them Languishing on the Streets

There is an increasing number of studies that have shown the cost-effectiveness of housing homeless persons instead of leaving them languishing on the streets. Over the years, the pioneering work of the University of Pennsylvania, national symposiums, and the past advocacy and recent advocacy of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and other universities, symposiums, and national and local advocacy organizations have driven home this point over and over again.

Recent studies include

  • New York State Department of Health Medicaid Redesign Team Supportive Housing Evaluation: Cost Report 1;
  • Evaluation of Housing for Health Permanent Supportive Housing Program;
  • Homelessness in Orange County (CA): The Costs to Our Community;
  • The Costs to Our Community: Home Not Found: The Cost Of Homelessness In Silicon Valley;
  • Family Options Study Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families;
  • City of Albuquerque Heading Home Initiative Cost Study Report Phase 1;
  • The Cost of Long-Term Homelessness in Central Florida; and
  • Getting Home: Outcomes from Housing High Cost Homeless Hospital Patients (Los Angeles).

Preventing Tragic and Gruesome Deaths

People who died while homeless have been brought to county morgues where coroner office staff determined that they died by electrocution, thermal injuries, hypothermia, environmental exposure, and blunt force injuries including traffic accidents and being crushed to death by large objects such as garbage bins.

The stories are both tragic and gruesome. The Guardian U.S. News Edition did a "review of news reports from the last decade (and) found at least 50 cases of dumpster-related homeless deaths and serious injuries." The act of trash collection itself is fatal as noted in the story:

  • "A man in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was tipped out of a dumpster and then run over by a garbage truck;
  • In Fort Worth, Texas, a screaming man had a heart attack after the dumpster he was inside was picked up;
  • More common are situations in which homeless people, sleeping in dumpsters or sheltering from the elements, are collected by garbage or recycling trucks and compacted (and crushed) along with the trash."

Other media stories highlight more tragedies like these.

Here’s one story in which a man was scooped up with a tent and dumped into a garbage truck but was pulled from the truck before being compacted.

Urban Initiatives is in the process of gathering information about the number of persons who died while homeless from the 58 counties that make up California.

Next Steps

In 2013, HUD provided “strategies that PHAs can pursue to expand housing opportunities for individuals and families experiencing homelessness through the Public Housing and HCV programs.”

Also, in 2013, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness provided “guidance to PHAs on how to collaborate and align resources to best prevent and end homelessness” and “how partnering with a variety of organizations can make a substantial impact on ending homelessness.”

Recommendations in these publications focus on increasing the percentage of homeless persons who obtain public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers whenever possible. They also focus on encouraging Public Housing Agencies to establish written homeless preference policies.

Table 1. Continuums of Care, Public Housing Agency(ies) and homeless preference and admissions into public housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Continuum of Care, Public Housing Agencies, & Total Homeless Population in 2017
 
% New Admissions into Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program during FY 2016 who were homeless at entry
PHA has General or Limited Homeless Preference
NY-600
New York City CoC
(homeless population: 76,501)

 

 

 
New York City Housing and Preservation Development
27
Yes-HCV

 
New York City Housing Authority
51
Yes-Both
CA-600
Los Angeles City & County CoC
(homeless population: 55,188)

 

 
 
Burbank Housing Authority
0
Yes-HCV
 
Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles
61
Yes-HCV
 
Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles
57
Yes-Both
 
Inglewood Housing Authority
46
No
 
Santa Monica Housing Authority
3
Yes-HCV
WA-500
Seattle/King County CoC
(homeless population: 11,643)

 

 
 
Renton Housing Authority
6
No
 
Seattle Housing Authority
47
Yes-Both
 
King County Housing Authority
55
Yes-Both
CA-601
San Diego City and County CoC
(homeless population: 9,160)

 

 
 
San Diego Housing Commission
50
Yes-Both
 
County of San Diego Housing & Community Development
42
Yes-HCV
 
Oceanside
12
Yes-HCV
 
City of Carlsbad Housing & Neighborhood Services
17
Yes-HCV
 
Housing Authority of the City of National City
0
No
DC-500
District of Columbia CoC
(homeless population: 7,473)

 

 
 
District of Columbia Housing Authority
70
Yes-Both
CA-500
San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC (homeless population: 7,394)

 

 
 
Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara
79
Yes-Both
 
Housing Authority of the City of San Jose
9
Yes-Both
TX-607
Texas Balance of State CoC
(homeless population: 7,153)

 

 
 
Lubbock Housing Authority
22
Yes-HCV
 
Corpus Christi Housing Authority
15
Yes-HCV
 
City of Denton Housing Authority
1
Yes-HCV
 
City of Brownsville Housing Authority
1
Yes-HCV
 
Longview Housing Authority
0
Yes-HCV
CA-501
San Francisco CoC
(homeless population: 6,858)

 

 
 
San Francisco Housing Authority
5
Yes-Both
NV-500
Las Vegas/Clark County CoC
(homeless population: 6,490)

 

 
 
Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority - Public Housing Program
24
Yes-Public Housing
 
Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority - Housing Choice Voucher Program
53
No
MA-500
Boston CoC
(homeless population: 6,135)

 

 
 
Boston Housing Authority
69
Yes-Both
OR-505
Oregon Balance of State
(homeless population: 5,795)

 

 
 
Northwest Oregon Housing Authority
20
Yes-Both
 
Linn-Benton Housing Authority
22
Yes-HCV
 
Housing Authority of the City of Salem
12
Yes-Both
 
Housing Authority of Yamhill County
3
Yes-Both
 
Housing and Urban Renewal Agency of Polk County
4
Yes-Both
PA-500
Philadelphia CoC
(homeless population: 5,693)

 

 
 
Philadelphia Housing Authority
64
Yes-Both
IL-
510
Chicago CoC
(homeless population: 5,657)

 

 
 
Chicago Housing Authority
9
Yes-HCV
CA-502
Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC (homeless population: 5,629)

 

 
 
Livermore Housing Authority
100
No
 
Oakland Housing Authority
9
Yes-Public Housing
 
Berkeley Housing Authority
13
Yes-Public Housing
 
City of Alameda Housing Authority
21
Yes-HCV
 
Alameda County Housing Authority
13
Yes-HCV
AZ-502
Phoenix, Mesa/Maricopa County CoC (homeless population: 5,605)

 

 
 
City of Phoenix
42
Yes-Both
 
Maricopa County
6
Yes-Both
 
City of Mesa
36
Yes-HCV
 
City of Tempe
14
Yes-HCV
 
City of Glendale
0
Yes-Both
CO-503
Metropolitan Denver CoC
(homeless population: 5,506)

 

 
 
Denver Housing Authority
23
Yes-Both
 
CO Division of Housing
41
Yes-HCV
 
Jefferson County Housing Authority
0
No
 
Adams County Housing Authority
0
Yes-Public Housing
 
Aurora Housing Authority
100
Yes-HCV
HI-501
Honolulu City and County CoC
(homeless population: 4,959)

 

 

 
City and County of Honolulu
23
Yes-HCV
 
Hawaii Public Housing Authority
52
Yes-Both
CA-602
Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC (homeless population: 4,792)

 

 
 
Orange County Housing Authority
20
Yes-HCV
 
Garden Grove Housing Authority
5
Yes-HCV
 
Anaheim Housing Authority
15
Yes-HCV
 
Santa Ana Housing Authority
42
Yes-HCV
WA-501
Washington Balance of State CoC
(homeless population: 4,671)

 

 

 
Thurston County Public Housing Authority
42
Yes-Both

 
Walla Walla Housing Authority
40
No

 
Bellingham Housing Authority
50
Yes-Both

 
Housing Authority of Island County
63
Yes-HCV
 
Peninsula Housing Authority
1
No
CO-500
Colorado Balance of State CoC
(homeless population: 4,019)

 

 

 
Pueblo Housing Authority
1
No
 
Colorado Division of Housing
0
No

 
Ft. Collins Housing Authority
21
Yes-Both

 
Grand Junction Housing Authority
56
No

 
Loveland Housing Authority
1
Yes-Both
 

 

Comments

It is imperative that public housing authorities receive adequate funding to admit homeless individuals and families as a priority. The private market will not sufficiently address the issue leaving non-profit's operating budgets at risk with little incentives for private landlords. PHA support and enforcement needs to come from leadership through an agreement between Mayors, Governors and HUD. Until the fundamental economic conditions that perpetuate homelessness are addressed, public, subsidized housing is the most cost effective remedy. Complex program and governance requirements as codified in the CoC program create an unnecessary administrative burden detracting from investing more in an economic solution.

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