Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) in partnership with UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, is producing the Housing & Homelessness Ecosystem of community providers as a first step in what is envisioned as creating a culture of continuous improvement. Last week’s Building Bridges blog post discusses why an Ecosystem matters for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
This week’s blog post provides more detail about the information contained on the Ecosystem, which will be released on the Dashboard in September.
The Housing & Homelessness Ecosystem standardizes community definitions for each type of housing intervention along the entire housing continuum. In order to describe an Ecosystem, all of the participants and observers must speak a common language. Definitions within the Ecosystem integrate existing housing definitions from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) with nomenclature from local housing interventions to create a new, community-specific vocabulary. The end result includes everyone and can be easily translated across funding sources. This is an important component for system alignment, which will lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness. T
he Ecosystem consists of four primary categories. These categories span housing interventions across the entire spectrum: serving households facing housing instability and homelessness, and incorporating the range from prevention to permanent housing.
For the first time, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has one set of terms and definitions to describe all housing interventions across the housing continuum.
The Ecosystem includes organizations which provide housing assistance as defined by the four categories; therefore, organizations and/or specific programs within organizations which provide supportive services only (including street outreach) are not included. The definition of homelessness and housing instability used in the Ecosystem is not limited to any specific source, including the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) or the U.S. Department of Education. The categories and specific housing interventions are listed below:
Prevention is a category targeting households facing housing instability who have not yet lost their housing. Prevention includes community-wide interventions aimed at changing systems and structures that perpetuate housing instability; cross-sector collaboration and coordination to reduce the prevalence of homelessness; and targeted interventions including financial and legal assistance to help households maintain their housing.
Diversion is a category targeting households who are homeless and seeking emergency shelter. Diversion helps households resolve their immediate housing crisis by accessing alternatives to entering emergency shelter or the experience of unsheltered homelessness. Diversion assistance includes problem-solving to identify an immediate, alternate housing arrangement or financial assistance such as a bus pass to stay with a family member.
Temporary Housing is a category of housing interventions that provide short-term, temporary housing assistance to households experiencing homelessness.
- A facility with the primary purpose of providing temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness. It includes shelters that are open seasonally and year-round. This housing type is including the Continuum of Care (CoC)’s Housing Inventory Count and reported as part of the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
- Temporary housing usually coupled with supportive services to facilitate the movement of homeless individuals and families to permanent housing within a reasonable amount of time (usually 24 months). This housing type is including the Continuum of Care (CoC)’s Housing Inventory Count and reported as part of the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
Other Transitional Housing
- Other non-emergency, temporary housing types including institutional and residential settings such as jails, hospitals or mental health and/or substance use treatment programs for people experiencing homelessness.
Permanent Housing is a category of housing interventions considered to be permanent in nature. Permanent Housing includes housing assistance through rental subsidies, unsubsidized housing, and homeownership; the length of assistance may be as short 3 months or entirely open-ended so long as a household continues to meet eligibility.
Rapid Re-housing (RRH)
- Short-term rental subsidy (up to 24 months) designed to help households quickly exit homelessness, return to housing in the community, and not become homeless again. RRH typically combines financial assistance and supportive services to help households access and stabilize in housing. The participating household must be the tenant on a lease (or sublease) for an initial term of at least one year that is renewable and is terminable only for cause. Further, leases (or subleases) must be renewable for a minimum term of one month. This housing type is including the Continuum of Care (CoC)’s Housing Inventory Count.
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
- Long-term rental subsidy (3+ years) designed to provide housing and supportive services to assist homeless households with a disability or families with an adult or child member with a disability to achieve housing stability. The participating household must be the tenant on a lease (or sublease) for an initial term of at least one year that is renewable and is terminable only for cause. Further, leases (or subleases) must be renewable for a minimum term of one month. This housing type is including the Continuum of Care (CoC)’s Housing Inventory Count.
Other Housing Units
Other Permanent Housing (OPH)
- Medium-term rental subsidy (1 – 3 years) designed to help households quickly exit homelessness, return to housing in the community, and not become homeless again. While OPH is longer than Rapid Re-housing, it also typically combines financial assistance and supportive services to help households access and stabilize in housing. The lease for the housing unit is between the landlord and program participant. This housing type is including the Continuum of Care (CoC)’s Housing Inventory Count. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, OPH exists through an arrangement between the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) and several local housing programs. CHA provides a number of time-limited Housing Choice Vouchers to each program in order to administer, according to CHA guidelines
Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV)
- The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is part of the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Program, which allows CHA the flexibility to combine federal funds from public housing operating and modernization programs and HCV program into a “block grant.” Identified below are the multiple ways that the HCV program operates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg: Tenant-based HCV means that the household with a voucher is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the Charlotte Housing Authority. Effective January 1, 2018, CHA implemented a mandatory work requirement. HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines HCV rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Family Unification Program (FUP) enables families to rent affordable housing for whom the lack of affordable housing is a primary factor in the separation of children from their families. FUP also enables eligible youth (for a period not to exceed 36 months) between 18 and 24 and who have left foster care, or will leave foster care within 90 days, in accordance with a transition plan described in section 475(5)(H) of the Social Security Act, and is homeless or is at risk of becoming homeless at age 16 or older. Family Self-Sufficiency utilizes rental assistance and public housing funds with public and private resources to provide supportive services, with the goal of achieving economic independence and self-sufficiency. Supportive Housing Partnerships includes local partnerships in which CHA has partnered with housing providers to provide gap financing and housing subsidies. Some supportive housing providers are considered Other Permanent Housing (OPH), which is part of the Continuum of Care’s (CoC) Housing Inventory Count. Criteria for inclusion is if the participating household is considered literally homeless according to the definition set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Project-Based Vouchers are located within specific properties throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Voucher assistance can be attached to specific housing units if the property owner agrees to either rehabilitate or construct the units, or if the owner agrees to set aside a portion of the units in an existing development. Prospective residents apply directly to the property.
- Public Housing was established to provide quality and safe rental housing opportunities for eligible extremely low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities. Households generally pay about 30% of their income for rent and utilities. Public housing is managed and operated by the Charlotte Housing Authority. It comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to multi-family developments.
Non-subsidized Affordable Rental Housing
- A rental housing unit that does not require a subsidy or other financial assistance to make it affordable. This means that the household does not pay more than 30% of their income on housing related expenses. This definition also includes Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH). NOAH units and properties are commonly defined by their physical characteristics and tend to be older and have fewer amenities.
Subsidized Access Affordable Homeownership
- An affordable housing unit combined with down-payment assistance or program participation that enables a household to obtain homeownership. A household may or may not receive ongoing financial assistance to afford their housing.
Household Type refers to the type of household served by a housing program within the organization. Programs may serve more than one household type. Generally, the funding source and/or program mission/operation determine the household type served.
- Single female adult age 18 or older
- Single male adult age 18 or older
Household with Child
- Household that have at least one adult over the age of 18 and at least one child under the age of 18.
Child Only Household (<18)
- Unaccompanied child under the age of 18
Unaccompanied Youth (18-24)
- Unaccompanied youth between the age of 18 and 24
CE / NC 2-1-1
CE / NC 2-1-1 stands for Coordinated Entry / North Carolina 2-1-1. Coordinated Entry is Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s portal to connect individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability to an existing available shelter or housing resource. Coordinated Entry also helps the community to prioritize resources for the most vulnerable households and to identify gaps and shortages in housing resources. By participating in Coordinated Entry, housing organizations prioritize their temporary and permanent housing assistance for households seeking assistance through the CE NC 2-1-1 portal.
Funding source categories are outlined for each housing program. They are described in detail below:
- Local funding is public funding for housing assistance that originates within the City of Charlotte or Mecklenburg County. Examples include the Housing Trust Fund from the City of Charlotte or Community grants provided by Mecklenburg County.
- State funding is public funding for housing assistance that originates at the state level.
- Federal funding is public funding for housing assistance that originates at the federal level. Examples include Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Continuum of Care (CoC) funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Private / Philanthropic
- Private / Philanthropic funding is private funding or housing assistance that originates from private sources including the foundations, for-profit and non-profit entities and the faith community.
To effectively address housing instability and homelessness across the housing continuum, the entire system must work together: aligning resources; streamlining processes; and seeking opportunities to coordinate, collaborate, and complement.
The release of the Ecosystem next week lays the foundation to support this important system change work. Next week’s blog post will feature the components of the new Ecosystem and how all community stakeholders can use it for good.
Courtney Morton coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.