Thursday, August 4, 2016

Busiest Time of the Year

The official seal of HUD
Things never seem to slow down at MDHA, so after writing the above headline, I hesitated for a moment. However, it is difficult to argue that now is not the busiest time of the year for us. In fact, if you happen to interact with any of the folks, who are funded through the Continuum of Care (CoC), don't be surprised if they look a little harried, perhaps mumbling strange sounds like NOFA, eSNAPS, PRAC, LOCCS, and more. If they are worried about their APR, it is not their mortgage they are preoccupied with, and if they are filling out a scorecard, they are not wasting their work hours on their fantasy baseball teams.

So, what is going on? Once a year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), through which it makes (this year) about $1.9 billion for the funding of CoC programs in every American community (a little less than $17 million for Dallas). The vast majority of these funds go to housing programs for those experiencing homelessness, with the remainder going to the infrastructure of homeless response systems. Programs do not apply on their own, rather as part of their local CoCs, and the entire process is managed by lead agencies, like MDHA, who are the designated collaborative applicants, on behalf of communities.

All of this seemingly dry technical work is guided by HUD's robust vision is to end homelessness. As the HUD website states: "HUD is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to end homelessness. We've made tremendous progress in recent years, including a 21% drop in chronic homelessness and a 33% drop in veteran homelessness. To achieve the goals of Opening Doors, and end homelessness, we've got to build on what we know works by strengthening interagency collaboration and investing in proven approaches such as Housing First." (Emphasis ours)

Here is the kicker, and one of the reasons this process, which can occur at a totally different random time every year (Yay!), pretty much subsumes the CoC collaborative applicant, and those in each agency that are in charge of the agency portion of this huge application: This funding, which for Dallas approaches $17 million, is anything but automatic! In fact, the process is referred to as a competition, because that is what it is. Communities and programs that do a good job at ending homelessness get funded and can even get extra funding, and communities and programs that don't do a good job, well, you know the rest...

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