Homelessness:

Grant Applicants' Characteristics and Views on the Supportive Housing Program

RCED-99-239: Published: Aug 12, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Supportive Housing Program, focusing on the: (1) characteristics of Supportive Housing Program applicants; (2) types of programs and services for homeless people that this program supports; (3) importance of Supportive Housing Program grants to applicants' programs for the homeless; and (4) various funding sources, in addition to Supportive Housing Program grants, that applicants rely on for their programs and services for homeless people.

GAO noted that: (1) about 90 percent of the applicants for Supportive Housing Program grants in 1997 are nonprofit organizations; (2) almost 70 percent of the applicants have been in existence for between 10 and 50 years; (3) however, most of the applicants have generally offered services to the homeless only during the last 20 years; (4) about 64 percent of the applicants serve fewer than 500 homeless people each year, and the types of homeless people they most often serve include adults with dependent children, individuals with physical and mental disabilities, and persons with substance abuse problems; (5) the majority of the Supportive Housing Program grants support programs that provide transitional housing with supportive services or supportive services only; (6) on the basis of applicants' responses, GAO estimates that about 59 percent of the requests for Supportive Housing Program grants in 1997 were for programs that provide transitional housing with supportive services and 30 percent were for programs that provide supportive services only; (7) the remaining 11 percent were requests for programs that provide permanent housing for persons with disabilities and innovative supportive housing projects; (8) the types of supportive services that applicants most often provide to homeless people include case management, instruction in life skills; (9) Supportive Housing Program grants provide a significant portion of the funding available for some applicants' homeless assistance programs, and applicants generally believe that these grants are an important source of funding for their programs; (10) on the basis of applicants' responses, GAO estimates that Supportive Housing Program grants represent about 45 percent of the resources that applicants receive from all sources to support their programs for the homeless; (11) the importance of the Supportive Housing Program is evident from the negative consequences that applicants often faced when they did not receive an award; (12) GAO's survey results indicate a widespread belief among applicants that the Supportive Housing Program is an important and unique source of funding for homeless assistance programs and that receiving an award from the program confers legitimacy on the applicants' efforts; and (13) in addition to Supportive Housing Program Grants, applicants request and receive funds from a variety of other federal and nonfederal sources to support their homeless assistance programs.

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