HUD's Interpretation of Homeless Excludes Previously Served Groups

RCED-92-226: Published: Aug 12, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) interpretation of the Homeless Assistance Act's definition of homeless, focusing on: (1) ambiguities in the HUD definition of homeless; and (2) the effects of the interpretation on persons who are deinstitutionalized, homeless and living with friends or family, and those living without accommodations in rural areas.

GAO found that: (1) HUD accepted applications for assistance from families, individuals, and handicapped persons living on the street or in a shelter, facing eviction without a subsequent residence, or leaving an institution without a subsequent residence or the resources needed to obtain housing; (2) HUD clarified its interpretation of homeless for its programs, but there was still confusion about who was eligible to receive benefits; and (3) the recent HUD targeting policy eliminates some previously eligible groups, including the institutionalized mentally ill, persons who are living with friends or family or in substandard housing, and the rural homeless.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HUD reissued the guide to participant eligibility with the terms "imminent," "of short durration," and "in the later stages" defined on January 14, 1993. HUD also distributed training materials for grant applications containing a discussion of participant eligibility with the terms defined on March 15, 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should ensure the completion of departmental efforts to establish more specific guidelines for defining homeless. These guidelines should clarify the terms imminent, of short duration, and in the later stages and should be specific enough to be consistently interpreted and applied.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development


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