Photo of homeless man lies on the street in the shadow of the old building

Federal government targets assistance for unsheltered homelessness

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As more people have found themselves homeless and without shelter over the last few years, the federal government is taking unprecedented action to address the growing nationwide problem.

HUD announces major funding for unsheltered homelessness

The Biden administration recently announced the availability of funding to address unsheltered homelessness nationwide. This is the first time that the federal government has targeted funding specifically to help people living on the streets and in encampments.


This is the first time that the federal government has targeted funding specifically to help people living on the streets and in encampments.


The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a $365 million funding package with its “Initiative for Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness.” The package includes grant funding and new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

HUD announced that $302 million will support Continuum of Care Program grants. These grants help local Continuum of Care partners around the country. This money pays for outreach, permanent supportive housing, and supportive services.

The grants will last for 3 years. After that, these programs and projects will be eligible for funding through the regular Continuum of Care process.

$54.5 million of the grant funding will be set aside for rural areas. Many rural places have people experiencing homelessness but they are often less visible. These funds will help rural communities create strong shelter, housing, and service networks to help people get into stable housing.

Beyond federal funding, the government is also working to assist unsheltered homelessness with new policymaking. 

New federal guidance will help communities

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released a statement on the growing crisis of unsheltered homelessness and encampments. The statement says that unsheltered homelessness was a public health crisis before the pandemic, and is now “growing right before our eyes.”

USICH coordinates the response of all federal agencies with programs that help people experiencing homelessness. This includes HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Veterans Administration, among others.

The homelessness agency announced it will soon be releasing a set of guiding principles and practices. These will help communities address unsheltered homelessness in general and encampments in particular.

Successful programs around the country have been studied by USICH. They point out that there is no place that has created a perfect system to eliminate unsheltered homelessness, but there are lots of good approaches. 

The new guidance will reflect the key principles USICH has seen when Continuum of Care partners work well together. These networks help more people get to permanent housing when they have:

  • Strong communication between agencies and with homeless residents.
  • A transparent planning process that also includes people experiencing homelessness.
  • Streamlined access to shelter, permanent housing, and healthcare (including mental health and substance use services)

The pandemic has made the affordable housing crisis worse across the nation. As low-income renters lose income because of the pandemic’s economic disruptions, more and more find themselves facing homelessness. 

By coordinating responses across federal agencies, the White House is showing it takes the needs of people living without shelter seriously. HUD’s award of funds will put this planning to work in the places where it is needed most, including rural areas often left behind.

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