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United States General Accounting Office: 
GAO:  

Testimony:  

Before the Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, Committee on 
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs U.S. Senate:  

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST: 
Wednesday March 6, 2002: 	 

Homelessness:  

Improving Program Coordination and Client Access to Programs:  

Statement of Stanley J. Czerwinski: 
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues
		
GAO-02-485T:  

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:  

We are here today at your request to discuss federal assistance for 
homeless people. As you know, homelessness in America is a complex 
issue. Many people are homeless for only a short time and get back on 
their feet with minimal assistance, but others are chronically 
homeless and need a range of intensive and ongoing assistance in 
addition to housing. In the late 1980s, Congress recognized that 
existing programs were not effectively meeting the needs of homeless 
people. Consequently, Congress passed the Steward B. McKinney Homeless 
Assistance Act (now known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance 
Act) in 1987 as a comprehensive federal response to homelessness. As 
part its fiscal year 2003 budget submission, the Administration 
announced that it has made ending chronic homelessness in the next 
decade a top objective. The Department of Housing and Urban 
Development (HUD) is responsible for helping the homeless toward self-
sufficiency, in part, through four key McKinney-Vento Act programs, 
the Emergency Shelter Grants program, the Supportive Housing Program, 
the Shelter Plus Care program, and the Section 8 Single-Room Occupancy 
program.[Footnote 1] Low-income people, including those who are 
homeless, can also receive a wide range of assistance-—such as 
housing, food, health care, transportation, and job training-—through 
an array of mainstream federal programs, such as the Food Stamp 
Program and Medicaid.  

Our testimony today is based primarily on issued reports and testimony 
over the past 4 years. We will focus on the (1) federal approach to 
assisting homeless people, (2) actions HUD has taken to overcome the 
coordination and administrative challenges posed by its homelessness 
programs, (3) inability of homeless people to access and use federal 
mainstream programs that are available to low-income people generally, 
and (4) issues that should be addressed in considering future 
homelessness policies.  

In summary:  

* The federal approach to assisting homeless people includes 50 
programs administered by 8 federal agencies. Sixteen of these programs 
are targeted, or reserved for the homeless, and the rest are 
mainstream programs. In part because of the difficulties that homeless 
people have accessing mainstream programs, much of the assistance 
provided under the targeted programs mirrors the assistance provided 
under the mainstream programs. Targeted programs were funded at about 
$1.7 billion in fiscal year 2001.  

* Under the varying eligibility and funding requirements of HUD's four 
McKinney-Vento Act programs, it has been a challenge for HUD to ensure 
that adequate coordination occurs among the programs without creating 
undue administrative burdens for the states and communities. HUD has 
taken actions that have improved the coordination of homeless 
assistance programs within communities and have helped reduce some of 
the administrative burdens that separate programs cause.  

* Homeless people are often unable to access and use federal 
mainstream programs because of the inherent conditions of homelessness 
as well as the structure and operations of the programs themselves. 
All low-income populations face barriers to applying for, retaining, 
and using the services provided by mainstream programs; however, these 
barriers are compounded by the inherent conditions of homelessness, 
such lack of a permanent address or a phone number. In addition, the 
underlying structure and operations of federal mainstream programs are 
often not conducive to ensuring that the special needs of homeless 
people are met.  

* As we testified previously, consolidating HUD's McKinney-Vento 
programs is a step that could help reduce the administrative burden on 
HUD. However, to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness in 10 
years, another important step for the Administration and the Congress 
is to alleviate the barriers that homeless people encounter as they 
seek services from mainstream programs. A number of long-standing and 
complex issues such as improving the integration and coordination of 
federal programs, ensuring an appropriate system of incentives for 
serving homeless people, and holding mainstream programs more 
accountable for serving homeless people will need to be addressed in 
order to alleviate the barriers to accessing mainstream programs.  

Homelessness in America is a significant and complex problem. 
According to a survey conducted for the federal Interagency Council on 
the Homeless in 1996, 85 percent of homeless clients were single, 
predominately male and nonwhite, and almost 40 percent had less than a 
high school diploma.[Footnote 2]  

About one quarter of those who used the programs were veterans. About 
15 percent of homeless clients were families that had on average, two 
children. Forty-two percent of homeless clients reported that finding 
a job was their top need followed by a need for help in finding 
affordable housing. Almost 60 percent reported at least one problem 
with getting enough food to eat during the 30 days before being 
interviewed. About 40 percent reported alcohol problems in the past 
month, 26 percent reported drug problems, and 39 percent reported 
mental health problems during that period. As the survey demonstrates, 
the homeless population is far from homogenous. For many homeless 
people, particularly those in homeless families, homelessness is a 
short-term or episodic event. These individuals may require little 
more than emergency shelter to help them through a difficult 
situation. For other homeless people, particularly those with severe 
substance abuse or mental health disorders, homelessness is a chronic 
condition; these individuals may require intensive and ongoing 
supportive services in addition to housing. As a result, the types of 
assistance that different homeless people and families require vary 
greatly.  

HUD has responsibility for administering a homeless assistance grant 
account funded at about $1 billion in fiscal year 2002. The homeless 
assistance grant account was created to provide funding for HUD's four 
key homeless assistance programs:  

Emergency Shelter Grants: This program is intended to improve the 
quality of existing emergency shelters for homeless people and makes 
additional shelters available for this population. In addition, the 
program is designed to help grantees meet the costs of operating 
shelters, provide essential social services to homeless people, and 
prevent homelessness. This program provides formula grants to states, 
metropolitan cities, urban counties, and territories in accordance 
with the distribution formula used for HUD's Community Development 
Block Grant program.[Footnote 3] According to HUD, grantees are 
generally notified of their annual Emergency Shelter Grant allocation 
before the start of each calendar year.  

Supportive Housing Program: This program is intended to promote the 
development of supportive housing and services, including innovative 
approaches to help homeless people make the transition from 
homelessness and enable them to live as independently as possible. 
States, local governments, other governmental entities (such as public 
housing authorities), private nonprofit organizations, and community 
mental health associations that are public nonprofit organizations can 
annually compete for supportive housing grants through a national 
competition. These grants may be used to provide (1) transitional 
housing for up to 24 months and up to 6 months of follow-up services 
for residents who move to permanent housing; (2) permanent housing 
with appropriate supportive services for homeless people with 
disabilities to enable them to live as independently as possible; (3) 
supportive services only, with no housing; (4) safe havens for 
homeless individuals with serious mental illness;[Footnote 4] and
(5) innovative approaches to help develop supportive housing that will 
meet the long-term needs of homeless people. The term for initial 
grants made under this program is up to 3 years.  

Shelter Plus Care: This program provides rental assistance for hard-to-
serve homeless people with disabilities along with supportive services 
that are funded from other sources. States, units of general 
government, and public housing authorities are eligible to apply for 
project grants through a national competition. Grants can be used to 
provide rental assistance payments for either 5 or 10 years depending 
on the type of rental assistance requested and whether the grantee 
meets other program requirements.  

Section 8 Single-Room Occupancy Moderate Rehabilitation: The Single-
Room Occupancy program brings more standard single-room occupancy 
units into the local housing supply and makes them available to 
homeless individuals. These housing units are intended for occupancy 
by a single person and may or may not contain either food preparation 
or sanitary facilities. Under this program, HUD enters into annual 
contracts with public housing authorities for the moderate 
rehabilitation of residential properties so that when the work is 
done, the properties will contain multiple single-room units. The 
public housing authority is responsible for selecting properties that 
are suitable for rehabilitation and for identifying landlords who 
would like to participate in the program. Under this program, public 
housing authorities and private nonprofit organizations are eligible 
to compete for rental subsidies through an annual national 
competition. Rental assistance payments are provided for a period of 
10 years.  

A Wide Range of Federal Assistance is Available for Homeless People:  

As we reported in February 1999, 50 federal programs administered by 8 
federal agencies can provide services to homeless people.[Footnote 5] 
Of the 50 programs, 16 are targeted, or reserved for the homeless; and 
34 are mainstream programs. Although all the mainstream programs may 
serve homeless people, the extent to which they do so is generally 
unknown because the primary purpose of these programs is to serve low-
income—not homeless—people; therefore, most of the programs do not 
track the number of homeless people served. In fiscal year 2001, the 
targeted programs were funded at roughly $1.7 billion.  

Both targeted and mainstream programs provide an array of services, 
such as housing, health care, job training, and transportation. In 
some cases, programs operated by more than one agency offer the same 
type of service. As shown in table 1, 23 programs operated by 4 
agencies offer housing, such as emergency shelter, transitional 
housing, and other housing assistance. Twenty-six programs 
administered by 6 agencies offer food and nutrition services, 
including food stamps, school lunch subsidies, and supplements for 
food banks.  

Table 1: Types of Services that Can Be Provided through Targeted and 
Mainstream Programs: 
	
Federal agency programs:  

Type of service provided: Housing/shelter/rent assistance; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 1; 
HHS: 8; 
HUD: 11; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 3; 
Total: 23.  

Type of service provided: Primary health care; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 10; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 2; 
Total: 16.  

Type of service provided: Mental health; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 10; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 3; 
Total: 17.  

Type of service provided: Substance abuse treatment; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 9; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 3; 
Total: 16.  

Type of service provided: Education; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 2; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 8; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 1; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 2; 
Total: 17.  

Type of service provided: Employment and job training; 
USDA: 1; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 4; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 5; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 2; 
Total: 16.  

Type of service provided: Food and nutrition; 
USDA: 10; 
Education: 1; 
FEMA: 1; 
HHS: 7; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 3; 
Total: 26.  

Type of service provided: Homelessness prevention; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 1; 
HHS: 6; 
HUD: 3; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 0; 
Total: 10.  

Type of service provided: Income support; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 2; 
HUD: 0; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 1; 
VA: 0; 
Total: 3.  

Type of service provided: Transportation; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 1; 
HHS: 9; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 1; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 2; 
Total: 17.  

Type of service provided: Case managements; 
USDA: 0; 
Education: 0; 
FEMA: 0; 
HHS: 15; 
HUD: 4; 
Labor: 0; 
SSA: 0; 
VA: 3; 
Total: 13.  

[A] Includes counseling activities for individuals, such as conducting 
an assessment of an individual's service needs; referring an 
individual for, or assisting an individual with, obtaining additional 
services; and following up after a client leaves the program.  

Source: GAO analysis of program information supplied by the agencies.  

[End of table]  

In addition, some of the programs are available to the general 
homeless or low-income population; others are reserved for specific 
groups within these populations. As shown in table 2, only 4 of the 16 
targeted programs, including HUD's Supportive Housing Program and 
FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter Program, serve the homeless 
population as a whole. The remainder serve specific subgroups of 
homeless people. For example, five of the targeted programs serve only 
homeless children and youth; and four other targeted programs serve 
only homeless veterans. Similarly, of the 36 mainstream programs, 14 
programs, such as Medicaid, are available to all low-income persons 
who meet eligibility criteria. Eight programs, such as Head Start, are 
available only to low-income children and youth.  

Table 2: Groups Eligible to Receive Services through Targeted and 
Mainstream Programs:  

Eligible group/subgroup: General; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 4; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 14; 
Program type: Total: 18.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Children and youth; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 5; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 8; 
Program type: Total: 13.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Adults; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 1; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 1; 
Program type: Total: 2.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Elderly; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 0; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 2; 
Program type: Total: 2.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Women and children; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 0; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 3; 
Program type: Total: 3.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Persons with mental illnesses; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 1; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 1; 
Program type: Total: 2.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Persons with HIV/AIDS; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 1; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 2; 
Program type: Total: 3.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Persons with substance abuse disorders; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 1; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 1; 
Program type: Total: 2.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Veterans; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 4; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 1; 
Program type: Total: 5.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Disabled persons; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 1; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 2; 
Program type: Total: 3.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Migrants; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 0; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 1; 
Program type: Total: 1.  

Eligible group/subgroup: Total; 
Program type: Targeted-—for homeless people: 18; 
Program type: Mainstream-—for low-income people: 36; 
Program type: Total: 54.  

Note: The total exceeds the number of programs because some programs 
provide services to more than one group or subgroup.  

Source: GAO analysis of program information supplied by the agencies.  

[End of table]  

HUD Has Taken Some Actions to Address Coordination and Administrative 
Challenges in its Targeted Homeless Programs:  

Collectively, HUD's McKinney-Vento programs provide a wide variety of 
housing and services to meet the diverse needs of several segments of 
the homeless population. However, as we testified in May 2000, 
although the differences in these programs are meant to serve the 
diverse needs of a broad spectrum of homeless people, they also create 
coordination and administrative challenges because each program must 
be implemented according to differing legislative requirements. 
[Footnote 6] For example, state governments can receive Emergency 
Shelter, Supportive Housing Program, and Shelter Plus Care grants but 
not Single-Room Occupancy grants. Similarly, private nonprofit 
organizations can apply for Supportive Housing Program and Single-Room 
Occupancy grants but not Emergency Shelter and Shelter Plus Care 
grants. Coordination can be further complicated by the differences in 
eligible activities. For example, although Emergency Shelter and 
Supportive Housing Program grants can be used to provide supportive 
services, Shelter Plus Care and Single-Room Occupancy grants cannot be 
used for supportive services. Table 3 compares some of the 
requirements among HUD's four McKinney-Vento programs, including (1) 
the type of grant, (2) the organizations eligible to apply for 
funding, (3), the types of services that can be provided, (4) the 
types of activities eligible for funding, (5) the types of homeless 
people each program can serve, (6) the initial time period for which 
funds are available, and (7) the amount of matching funds required.  

Table 3: Requirements of Four HUD McKinney-Vento Programs:  

Program Requirements:  

Program Requirements: Type of grants: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: Formula grant; 
Supportive Housing Program: Competitive grant; 
Shelter Plus Care: Competitive grant; 
Single-Room Occupancy: Competitive grant.  

Program Requirements: Eligible applicants: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: States; Metropolitan cities; Urban counties; 
Territories; 
Supportive Housing Program: States; Local governments; Other 
governmental agencies; Private nonprofit organizations; Community 
mental health centers that are public
nonprofit organizations; 
Shelter Plus Care: States; Local governments; Public housing 
authorities; 
Single-Room Occupancy: Public housing authorities; Private nonprofit 
organizations;  

Program Requirements: Eligible program services: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: Emergency shelter; Essential social services; 
Supportive Housing Program: Transitional housing; Permanent housing 
for people with disabilities; Supportive services only; Safe havens; 
Innovative supportive housing; 
Shelter Plus Care: Tenant based rental assistance; Sponsor based 
rental assistance; Project based rental assistance; SRO based rental 
assistance; 
Single-Room Occupancy: Single-room occupancy housing.  

Program Requirements: Eligible activities: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: Renovation/conversion; Major rehabilitation; 
Supportive Housing Program: Supportive service Operating costs; 
Homelessness prevention activities; 
Acquisition; Rehabilitation; New construction; Leasing; Operating and 
administrative costs; Supportive services; 
Shelter Plus Care: Rental assistance; 
Single-Room Occupancy: Rental assistance.  

Program Requirements: Eligible population: 	
Emergency Shelter Grants: Homeless individuals and families; People at 
risk of becoming homeless; 
Supportive Housing Program: Homeless individuals and families for 
transitional housing and supportive services; Disabled homeless 
individuals for permanent housing; Hard-to-reach mentally ill homeless 
individuals for safe havens; 
Shelter Plus Care: Disabled homeless individuals and their families; 
Single-Room Occupancy: Homeless individuals.  

Program Requirements: Initial term of assistance: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: 1 year; 
Supportive Housing Program: Up to 3 years; 
Shelter Plus Care: 5 or 10 years; 
Single-Room Occupancy: 10 years.  

Program Requirements: Matching funds: 
Emergency Shelter Grants: States: no match for first $100,000 and 
dollar-for-dollar match for rest of funds; Local governments: dollar-
for-dollar match for all funds; 
Supportive Housing Program: Dollar-for-dollar match for acquisition, 
rehabilitation, and new construction grants. Operating costs must be 
shared by 25 percent in the first 2 years and 50 percent in the third 
year. A 25-percent match for supportive service grants; No match for 
grants used for leasing or administrative costs; 
Shelter Plus Care: Dollar-for-dollar match of the federal shelter 
grant to pay for supportive services; 
Single-Room Occupancy: No match required. 
				
Source: GAO presentation of information on HUD's programs.  

[End of table]  

HUD has taken steps to improve coordination among its McKinney-Vento 
programs and reduce the administrative burden caused by different 
program requirements. First, in 1993 HUD implemented a process called 
the "Continuum of Care" to encourage and enable localities to develop 
a coordinated and comprehensive community-based approach for program 
and service delivery to homeless people. The Continuum of Care process 
is designed to build partnerships among localities, states, nonprofit 
organizations, and the federal government. Funding for the housing and 
service needs identified by communities within their Continuum of Care 
plans is available through HUD's McKinney-Vento programs. HUD also 
requires that the planning and implementation of the Continuum of Care 
process take place within the broader context of the community's 5-
year Consolidated Plan. The Consolidated Plan describes how resources 
from HUD's key community development programs, such as the Community 
Development Block Grant, will be used to create long-term development 
within a community.  

In our July 2000 review of HUD's funding for these programs, we found 
that most projects that communities ranked as high priority were 
awarded funding.[Footnote 7] We also reported that although most 
communities that applied for funds during the 1999 competition had 
few, if any, problems in understanding HUD's application requirements 
and completing their paperwork, more than one-third had significant 
problems. Community representatives we spoke with suggested a number 
of actions that HUD could take to alleviate the problems they 
experienced, such as better training for applicants and field office 
staff, more use of technology to provide access to information, and a 
simpler application format.  

Second, to support the coordination and planning inherent in the 
Continuum of Care process and streamline and simplify the 
administration of the McKinney-Vento competitive grant programs, HUD 
combined the separate competitions for the Supportive Housing Program, 
Shelter Plus Care, and Single-Room Occupancy programs into one 
competitive process in 1998. Before HUD combined the application 
process, these three competitive grant programs had different time 
frames, application processes, and selection criteria. Under the 
current application process, communities are required to provide a 
Continuum of Care plan and an individual application for each project 
in that plan for which funds are being requested from any of the three 
programs. In addition, HUD now uses the same core rating criteria for 
making award decisions for all three programs. By streamlining the 
application process, HUD's goal was to lower the costs and problems of 
program administration for service and housing providers, with the 
expectation that this would enable providers to spend more of their 
resources on implementing the programs.  

For several years, HUD proposed legislation to consolidate its 
McKinney programs into a single homeless assistance grant program and 
deliver these funds to communities through block grants. HUD requested 
this legislation because it believed that consolidation would create a 
simpler, less paper-intensive system through which localities could 
develop coordinated community-based efforts to address and prevent 
homelessness. Although subsequent congressional action resulted in a 
single appropriation for HUD's four McKinney-Vento homeless assistance 
programs, consolidating legislation has not yet been enacted. As we 
testified in May 2000, HUD has made a considerable effort in trying to 
improve coordination and streamline the programs within the existing 
legislative framework. However, there is little more that HUD can do 
within the existing legislative framework. Recognizing the need to 
move further, both your bill and the Administration's budget propose 
consolidating HUD's McKinney-Vento programs.  

Homeless People Encounter Barriers to Using Mainstream Programs:  

Despite the availability of a wide array of programs, we reported in 
July 2000 that homeless people are often unable to access and use 
federal mainstream programs because of the inherent conditions of 
homelessness as well as the structure and operations of the programs 
themselves.[Footnote 8] All low-income populations face barriers to 
applying for, retaining, and using the services provided by mainstream 
programs; however, these barriers are compounded by the inherent 
conditions of homelessness, such as transience, instability, and a 
lack of basic resources. For example, complying with mainstream 
programs' paperwork requirements and regularly communicating with 
agencies and service providers can be more difficult for a person who 
does not have a permanent address or a phone number.  

Furthermore, as we reported in July 2000, the underlying structure and 
operations of federal mainstream programs are often not conducive to 
ensuring that the special needs of homeless people are met. Federal 
programs do not always include service providers with expertise and 
experience in addressing the needs of homeless people. These providers 
may not be organized or equipped to serve homeless people, may not be 
knowledgeable about their special needs, or may not have the 
sensitivity or experience to treat homeless clients with respect. For 
example, many providers delivering Medicaid services for states are 
not adept at dealing with homeless patients' special needs and 
characteristics, such as their inability to store medicines or their 
lack of adequate shelter, nutrition, and hygiene.  

In addition, we noted that federal mainstream programs may not provide 
adequate incentives for service providers to serve the homeless 
population. Homeless people often have multiple needs, more severe 
problems, and fewer resources than other segments of the low-income 
population. Therefore, they can be a comparatively more expensive and 
difficult population to serve. States, localities, and service 
providers who receive federal funds but face resource constraints may 
therefore be deterred from making the special efforts that are needed 
to reach out to and serve the homeless population. Also, the federal 
government's performance-based approach to measuring program outcomes, 
although beneficial in many respects, can inadvertently create 
disincentives for states, local areas, or individual providers to 
serve the most challenging populations, such as homeless people. This 
is because programs that focus on hard-to-serve populations, such as 
homeless people, may not have outcomes that are as successful as 
programs that focus on more mainstream and easier-to-serve 
populations.  

As we and others have reported in the past, the federal government's 
system for providing assistance to low-income people is highly 
fragmented. Each federal assistance program usually has its own 
eligibility criteria, application, documentation requirements, and 
time frames; moreover, applicants may need to travel to many locations 
and interact with many caseworkers to receive assistance. Among other 
things, this fragmentation can make it difficult to develop an 
integrated approach to helping homeless people, who often have 
multiple needs. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the multiple 
and complex needs of homeless people—which may include medical care, 
mental health care, substance abuse treatment, housing, income 
support, and employment services—should not be addressed in isolation 
but rather through programs that are integrated and coordinated.  

As we reported in July 2000, alleviating these barriers would require 
the federal government to address a number of long-standing and 
complex issues. An expert panel we convened during the course of our 
work on the July 2000 report presented a variety of strategies that 
the federal government could pursue to improve homeless people's 
access to, and use of, mainstream federal programs. These included (1) 
improving the integration and coordination of federal programs, (2) 
making the process of applying for federal assistance easier, (3) 
improving outreach to homeless people, (4) ensuring an appropriate 
system of incentives for serving homeless people, and (5) holding 
mainstream programs more accountable for serving homeless people.  

The issues the panel members identified are not new to the federal 
agencies responsible for administering mainstream programs, and 
federal agencies have tried to address them for years with varied 
degrees of success. For example, as we reported in July 2000, with 
regard to improving coordination and simplifying the application 
process, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed 
an information system design in the 1980s that facilitated state 
efforts to combine the eligibility determination process for Medicaid, 
the Food Stamp Program, and Aid to Families With Dependent Children. 
[Footnote 9] In addition, several states are planning or implementing 
their own automated systems to coordinate the delivery of services 
provided by multiple federal programs. However, these projects have 
faced several serious challenges, owing, in part, to the complexity of 
the system of aid for low-income people and the difficulties inherent 
in managing any large information technology project.  

Another mechanism for coordination of targeted and mainstream programs 
is the Interagency Council on the Homeless, which was established by 
Congress in 1987 to help streamline the governments approach to 
homelessness by bringing together representatives of federal agencies 
that administer programs or resources that can be used to alleviate 
homelessness. In 1994, however, because of congressional concern that 
the Council was not effectively coordinating a streamlined federal 
approach to homelessness, funds were not appropriated for the Council 
and it became a voluntary working group. In fiscal year 2001, the 
Congress funded the Council again. The conference report to the fiscal 
year 2002 HUD appropriations directed that the Council be placed under 
the President's Domestic Policy Office, that meetings be held at least 
semiannually, and that the chairmanship of the Council be rotated 
among the Secretaries of HUD, Health and Human Services, Labor, and 
Veterans Affairs.[Footnote 10]  

In terms of increasing accountability, the Government Performance and 
Results Act of 1993 requires federal agencies to collect performance 
data and use these data to hold programs accountable for their 
performance. However, we reported in 1999, the extent to which federal 
agencies were using this process to hold mainstream service providers 
more accountable for serving homeless people was not yet clear. 
Nevertheless, we reported in 1999 that communities were increasingly 
using outcome measures to manage their homeless assistance programs, 
focusing less on the types and numbers of activities performed and 
more on the results achieved.[Footnote 11] In Minnesota, for example, 
the state-funded Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program is 
an outcome-based program that provides agencies with flexible grants 
but holds them accountable for achieving certain measurable outcomes 
related to preventing homelessness among families. One outcome measure 
used by the program is the number of at-risk families who maintain 
stable housing.  

Federal agencies have developed a large body of knowledge about 
serving homeless people effectively through the McKinney-Vento Act 
programs and various demonstration and research projects targeted to 
homeless people. These programs and demonstration projects clearly 
show there are strategies mainstream programs can adopt to better 
serve the homeless population in such areas as mental health, 
substance abuse treatment, primary health care, housing, and job 
training. In 1994, we recommended that the secretaries of HUD, EMS, 
Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Education incorporate the successful 
strategies for working with homeless people from the McKinney-Vento 
Act demonstration and research projects into their mainstream 
programs. Although the federal agencies have taken some steps to 
implement our recommendation, members of the expert panel we convened 
during our review of barriers to access to mainstream programs 
emphasized that these efforts could go further. They said that federal 
agencies could do more to incorporate into mainstream programs the 
"best practices" for serving the homeless population that have been 
learned from past demonstration and research projects.  

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, although the wide array of assistance 
provided by HUD's McKinney-Vento Act programs is critical to meeting 
the diverse needs of homeless people, their complex and differing 
eligibility and funding requirements cause coordination and 
administrative challenges for HUD and the communities that rely on the 
funds. HUD has made a commendable effort in trying to improve 
coordination and streamline the administrative burden within the 
existing legislative framework for these programs. To the extent that 
further streamlining and simplification can be achieved by 
consolidating the McKinney-Vento programs, it will help HUD more 
efficiently administer these programs. However, this consolidation 
should be viewed only as a first step. To meet the goal of ending 
chronic homelessness in 10 years, another important step for the 
Administration and the Congress is to alleviate the barriers that 
homeless people encounter as they seek services from mainstream 
programs. A number of long-standing and complex issues such as 
improving the integration and coordination of federal programs, 
ensuring an appropriate system of incentives for serving homeless 
people, and holding mainstream programs more accountable for serving 
homeless people will need to be more fully addressed in order to 
alleviate the barriers to accessing mainstream programs.  

Mr. Chairman, this completes my prepared statement. I would be happy 
to respond to any questions.  

Contacts and Acknowledgment:  

For further contacts regarding this testimony, please contact Stan 
Czerwinski at (202) 512-6520. Individuals making key contributions to 
this testimony included Susan Campbell and Jason Bromberg.  

[End of section]  

Footnotes:  

[1] HUD is also responsible for several other McKinney and non-
McKinney programs that provide housing and services for homeless 
people. In addition, other federal agencies are responsible for 
homeless assistance programs authorized by the McKinney Act.  

[2] Martha R. Burt, et al, Homelessness: Programs and the People They 
Serve (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, Aug. 1999).  

[3] The Community Development Block Grant is a formula grant program 
through which HUD provides assistance to communities to help them 
develop viable communities that provide decent housing and a suitable 
living environment and expand economic opportunities, primarily for 
low- to moderate-income people.  

[4] Safe havens—-supportive housing serving hard to reach homeless 
people with severe mental illness who are living on the street-—are 
authorized as a separate program under title IV, subpart D, of the 
McKinney-Vento Act. However, because Congress has not funded this 
program, HUD has elected to provide funding for safe havens under the 
Supportive Housing Program.  

[5] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeless: Coordination and 
Evaluation of Programs Are Essential, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/RCED-99-49] (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 
26, 1999).  

[6] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homelessness: Consolidating HUD's 
McKinney Programs, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/T-RCED-00-187] (Washington, D.C.: May 
23, 2000).  

[7] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homelessness: HUD Funds Eligible 
Projects According to Communities' Priorities, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/RCED-00-191] (Washington, D.C.: July 
24, 2000).  

[8] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homelessness: Barriers to Using 
Mainstream Programs, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/RCED-00-184] (Washington, D.C.: July 
6, 2000).  

[9] Aid to Families With Dependent Children, which provided eligible 
families with monthly cash assistance, was replaced by the Temporary 
Assistance for Needy Families block grant for the states.  

[10] H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 272, 107th Cong., 1st Sess. 110 (2001).  

[11] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homelessness: State and Local 
Efforts to Integrate and Evaluate Homeless Assistance Programs, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/RCED-99-178] (Washington, 
D.C.: June 29, 1999).  

[End of section]