How Close Are We to Ending Homelessness among Families in California and What Are the Next Steps?
A brief prepared by Joe Colletti, PhD and Sofia Herrera, PhD Urban Initiatives on Homelessness and Poverty
We may be getting close to ending homelessness among unsheltered and sheltered families in California. A comparison of recent data shows that the total number of unsheltered families decreased significantly and the total number of sheltered families decreased slightly between 2010 and 2016 according to unduplicated one-night (point-in-time) estimates of both unsheltered and sheltered persons reported by the continuums of care1 that make up California.
How Close Are We?

The total number of unsheltered and sheltered families decreased between 2010 and 2016.2 In 2010, there were 8,312 unsheltered and sheltered families and 7,338 in 2016, which represents a decrease of 974 families or 12%. There were 2,362 unsheltered families in 2010 and 1,564 in 2016, which represents a significant decrease of 798 families or 34%. The total number of sheltered families decreased slightly between 2010 and 2016. In 2010, there were 5,950 sheltered families and 5,774 in 2016, which represents a decrease of 176 families or 3%.

A Close Look at the Current Strategies
This brief takes a close look at the strategies that were included in the 2016 Continuum of Care Program applications submitted by 40 California continuums of care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in September.
HUD has made it clear that the key to making progress towards ending homelessness among households with children is implementing a best practice known as Rapid Rehousing, which is a practice promoted by a wide-range of national, state, and local public and private organizations. Rapid Rehousing, as described by HUD,
“is an intervention, informed by a Housing First approach that is a critical part of a community’s effective homeless crisis response system. Rapid re-housing rapidly connects families and individuals experiencing homelessness to permanent housing through a tailored package of assistance that may include the use of time-limited financial assistance and targeted supportive services. Rapid rehousing programs help families and individuals living on the streets or in emergency shelters solve the practical and immediate challenges to obtaining permanent housing while reducing the amount of time they experience homelessness, avoiding a near-term return to homelessness, and linking to community resources that enable them to achieve housing stability in the long-term.”3
HUD has also made it clear that the implementation of a Rapid Rehousing intervention should be linked with a coordinated entry process. HUD requires all continuums of care to put into operation a Coordinated Entry System (CES) which helps
“communities prioritize assistance based on vulnerability and severity of service needs to ensure that people who need assistance the most can receive it in a timely manner.  Coordinated entry processes also provide information about service needs and gaps to help communities plan their assistance and identify needed resources.”4
Advancing the Strategies
This brief also focuses on advancing these strategies as outlined in the last section. Advancing the strategies include:
  • Increasing the Number of Rapid Rehousing Units
In order to continue to increase the number of Rapid Rehousing units, all California CoCs should promote the following sources of funding for which Rapid Rehousing is an eligible activity among eligible public and private agencies within their jurisdiction:
    • Permanent Housing Bonus Continuum of Care Program Competition;
    • reallocation of renewal funding through the Continuum of Care Program Competition;
    • Emergency Solutions Grant; and
    • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Housing Support Program (HSP).
  • Use All the Following Factors to Prioritize Families
All California CoCs should use all the following factors to prioritize households with children which include:
    • Vulnerability to victimization;
    • Number of previous homeless episodes;
    • Unsheltered homelessness;
    • Criminal history;
    • Bad credit or rental history including not having been a leaseholder; and
    • Head of household has mental/physical disabilities.
Not all California CoCs are using all the factors.
  • Use All Four Strategies Noted by HUD to Rapidly Rehouse Every Family Within 30 Days of Those Families Becoming Homeless
All California CoCs should include the four strategies that HUD encourages to rapidly rehouse every household with children within 30 days of those families becoming homeless. The four strategies are
    • coordinated entry process;
    • Housing First approach;
    • maximizing Continuum of Care (CoC) funds; and
    • maximizing Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds.
Not all California CoCs are using all the strategies.
  • Ensure that all emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing (PSH and RRH) providers within the CoC do not deny admission to or separate any family members from other members of their family based on age, sex, gender or disability when entering shelter or housing.
All California CoCs should help ensure that all emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing (PSH and RRH) providers within the CoC do not deny admission to or separate any family members from other members of their family based on age, sex, gender or disability when entering shelter or housing.
HUD stated that
“Involuntary separation of family members most commonly takes the form of separating male members of the household to admit female members into a project. The CoC Interim Rule at 24 CFR 578.93 (e) and 24 CFR 576.102(b) explicitly prohibit any kind of involuntary family separation and the denial of admission to selected family members, including those described above in all CoC Program-funded projects and ESG-funded emergency shelters. HUD’s FAQ 1529 provides additional clarification on this requirement.”5
However, it is also important to note that HUD noted other types of involuntary separation of family members in the recently published Equal Access to Housing Final Rule ( The Rule noted that

“Family includes, but is not limited to, regardless of marital status, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity, any group of persons presenting for assistance together with or without children and irrespective of age, relationship, or whether or not a member of the household has a disability. A child who is temporarily away from the home because of placement in foster care is considered a member of the family. What this means is that any group of people that present together for assistance and identify themselves as a family, regardless of age or relationship or other factors, are considered to be a family and must be served together as such. Further, a recipient or subrecipient receiving funds under the ESG or CoC Programs cannot discriminate against a group of people presenting as a family based on the composition of the family (e.g., adults and children or just adults), the age of any member’s family, the disability status of any members of the family, marital status, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
Also, it is important to note that HUD, in a joint letter with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), reminded that federally funded housing and service providers that they
“must not turn away immigrants experiencing homelessness or victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, on the basis of their immigration status, from certain housing and services necessary for life or safety – such as street outreach, emergency shelter, and short-term housing assistance including transitional housing and rapid re-housing funded through the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Continuum of Care (CoC) Programs.”6
Click here to read the entire brief which includes tables that provide data for each of the 40 California CoCs. 

1A “Continuum of Care” is a geographically based group of representatives that carries out the planning responsibilities of the Continuum of Care program, as described in 24 CFR Part 578 [Docket No. FR-5476-I-01] RIN 2506-AC29 Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These representatives come from organizations that provide services to the homeless, or represent the interests of the homeless or formerly homeless.
2The 2010 data was collected from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations Reports which are available on-line.[1] The 2016 data was collected from the 2016 Continuum of Care Program applications, which were submitted to HUD for funding last September.
5“FY 2016 Continuum of Care (CoC) Application Detailed Instructions,” p. 54.


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