In Palm Beach County, the Continuum of Care is known as the Homeless and Housing Alliance (HHA). The HHA is intended to deliver a comprehensive and coordinated continuum of services for homeless individuals and families. The system’s fundamental components include homeless prevention, outreach and assessment, emergency shelter, transitional housing, supportive services, permanent housing, and permanent supportive housing. The HHA includes community-based membership with representatives from government, business, formerly homeless individuals, law enforcement, banking, housing service providers, faith groups, education, veterans, health care, and concerned individuals. Palm Beach County Division of Human Services and Community Action, (HSCA) continues its role as the lead entity for the HHA, which began in January 2006.
History and Purpose
The roots of the CoC program can be traced back to the 1980s when homelessness became a more prominent issue in the United States. Local organizations and governments began developing shelters and services for homeless individuals. In 1987, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was passed by Congress. This legislation was a significant step in addressing homelessness by providing federal funding for emergency shelter programs and services for homeless individuals and families. The CoC program as we know it today was established in the late 1990s as part of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget. It replaced the Emergency Shelter Grants program. The CoC program aimed to create a more comprehensive, community-based approach to addressing homelessness.
The CoC program is designed to promote a coordinated, community-wide response to homelessness. It requires communities to establish a Continuum of Care, a collaborative network of service providers, housing agencies, and local government organizations. These CoCs work together to identify needs, allocate resources, and deliver housing and services to homeless individuals and families. The CoC program allocates federal funding to local CoCs through a competitive grant process. CoCs must submit annual applications to HUD, outlining their plans to address homelessness in their communities. Over the years, the CoC program has evolved to emphasize the "Housing First" approach, which prioritizes getting homeless individuals and families into stable housing as quickly as possible, with supportive services provided as needed. he CoC program has increasingly prioritized permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with supportive services like case management, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment. This approach has been shown to be effective in reducing homelessness and improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness. The CoC program has also expanded to include assistance for a variety of homeless populations, including veterans, families, youth, and individuals with disabilities. The CoC program is a crucial component necessary to combat homelessness and promote housing stability. It plays a key role in coordinating and funding services that help homeless individuals and families find safe, stable housing and improve their overall well-being.
The composition of each CoC is expected to be tailored to its unique community circumstances, to the extent possible involving all of the players required to further local efforts to end homelessness. The purpose of requiring stakeholder representation from a wide range of organizations within the CoC’s geographic area is to ensure that all community stakeholders participate in developing and implementing a range of housing and services. A CoC is expected to address homelessness through a coordinated community-based process of identifying needs and building a system of housing and services that addresses those needs. While the CoC’s function is not new one, the CoC Program interim rule designates the CoC as the community planning body that addresses the needs of persons who are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis. Accordingly, the CoC must move beyond the evaluation and prioritization of specific projects to a system-wide evaluation of the community’s response to homelessness.
A model CoC should include the following components:
1. Outreach, intake, and assessment to link housing and services to the needs of those who are homeless.
2. Services and resources to prevent housed persons from becoming homeless or returning to homelessness.
3. Emergency sheltering as a safe alternative to living on the streets.
4. Transitional housing to move persons toward permanent housing solutions.
5. Permanent housing to end episodes of homelessness.
6. Supportive services designed to assist the person with necessary skills to secure and retain permanent housing.