As the federal budget tightens and the growth of programs targeted for the homeless slows, it is more important than ever for homeless advocates and service providers to engage in a more meaningful way with Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). After all, these agencies administer billions of dollars nationally in rental and other housing assistance and, in many communities, are on the front lines of preventing and ending homelessness.
Over the past two years, we at the Corporation for Supportive Housing(CSH) have focused more of our resources and advocacy efforts on programs integral to the success of PHAs, such as Section 8 rental assistance, Section 8 administrative fees and Public Housing operating funds. We’ve also looked closely at the work of PHAs to identify issues preventing PHAs from doing more to end homelessness. It has become clear to us that non-profit organizations like CSH and the Alliance, as well as government agencies such as HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, need to do more work to build capacity and know-how among PHAs, to debunk myths about restrictions on who can be housed in federally-assisted housing, and to help share best practices from successful communities.
We also have seen that PHAs and homeless service providers can have a complementary relationship, with PHAs and providers helping each other achieve their respective goals. PHAs want to improve relationships with landlords; they want to score well on federal funding competitions that often give points for targeting assistance to the most vulnerable people in the community; and they want to accomplish their mission of providing housing to low-income people. Homeless service providers can help PHAs accomplish many of these goals by providing the support services that increase the chances for success.
Conversely, providers are looking for rental assistance, reduced barriers to housing, and for PHAs to provide priorities and preferences for people who are homeless. PHAs can provide that rental assistance, clarify their intake procedures, allow for more flexibility and become a part of community- planning efforts to end homelessness.
On September 10, we launched one of the outcomes of our recent focus on PHAs. Our new PHA Toolkit is an interactive resource for the PHAs and partners interested in pursuing supportive housing as way to fight homelessness. We included in the Toolkit specific strategies and concrete examples of the roles PHAs can play to create supportive housing. Also included in the toolkit:
- Profiles of how PHAs have worked to reduce homelessness
- Sample documents and agreements
- A glossary of service terms
- Models for partnering with other systems in the community
We are grateful for the collaboration and feedback provided by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, HUD and others in making this toolkit a reality. The toolkit is online now at csh.org/phatoolkit.
By working together and using some of the tools in CSH’s Toolkit, PHAs and community partners can achieve our shared goal of ending homelessness for good.