Improving Program Coordination and Client Access to Programs

GAO-02-485T: Published: Mar 6, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2002.

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Stanley J. Czerwinski
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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 intensive and ongoing assistance. Fifty federal programs exist to help the homeless with housing. Sixteen of these are targeted exclusively to the homeless, and the others are mainstream programs. Targeted programs were funded at $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2001. GAO found that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been unable to ensure that adequate coordination occurs among the programs without creating undue administrative burdens for the states and communities. Steps have been taken to improve the coordination of homeless assistance programs within communities and to reduce some of the administrative burdens caused by separate programs. Although low-income populations face barriers to obtaining services provided by mainstream programs, these barriers are compounded by homelessness. In addition, the underlying structure and operations of federal mainstream programs do not ensure that the special needs of homeless people are met. Consolidating HUD's McKinney-Vento programs could help reduce the administrative burden. However, to end chronic homelessness in 10 years, federal agencies must strive to eliminate the barriers that homeless people encounter as they seek services from mainstream programs.

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