Section B: Eligible Participants

In this section…

Determine & document eligibility using the Participant Eligibility Guide and Worksheet in Supportive Housing Program Self-Monitoring Tools

See a sample eligibility checklist

Use Health Care for the Homeless´┐Ż Documenting Disability: Simple Strategies for Medical Providers Guide for help documenting disability status

Who is Considered Homeless?

The definition of who is homeless is found in section 103 of the McKinney-Vento Act and also referenced in the regulations at 24 CFR 583.5. Basically, a homeless person is someone who is living on the street or in an emergency shelter, or who would be living on the street or in an emergency shelter without SHP assistance. See special guidance on serving youth and persons who may be illegal aliens in the Special Guidance sections below.

A person is considered homeless only when he/she resides in one of the three places described below:

  1. places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, and abandoned buildings;
  2. an emergency shelter; or
  3. transitional housing for homeless persons.

If a person is in one of these three places, but most recently spent less than 30 days in a jail or institution, he/she qualifies as coming from one of these three categories.

In addition to the above three categories as noted in the 2005 NOFA and beyond, projects providing Transitional Housing including, Safe Havens, or Supportive Services Only projects may also serve populations meeting the following:

  1. eviction within a week from a private dwelling unit and no subsequent residence has been identified and the person lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing; or
  2. discharge within a week from an institution in which the person has been a resident for 30 or more consecutive days and no subsequent residence has been identified and he/she lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

Eligibility for New and Renewal Permanent Housing Projects

Beginning with the 2005 NOFA, persons assisted by new and renewal permanent housing projects must be homeless and come from:

  1. places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, and abandoned buildings;
  2. an emergency shelter; or
  3. transitional housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelter.

It is HUD’s intent to continue using these criteria in future NOFAs. Current grantees that apply for renewal grants should familiarize themselves with the homeless definition in the NOFA and be aware that HUD will expect them to apply these criteria to new program participants, not current participants. That is, the eligibility criteria above apply to the screening process as units become vacant. This does not mean that current residents are to be removed from housing if they entered on the basis of 5 listed above.

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Who is Not Considered Homeless?

Persons who are not homeless may not receive assistance under SHP. Examples of people who are not homeless are those who are:

  • In housing, even though they are paying an excessive amount for their housing, the housing is substandard and in need of repair, or the housing is crowded;
  • Incarcerated;
  • Living with relatives or friends;
  • Living in a Board and Care, Adult Congregate Living Facility, or similar place;
  • Being discharged from an institution which is required to provide or arrange housing upon release; or
  • Utilizing Housing Choice Vouchers, except Katrina evacuees that received Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP) Housing Choice Vouchers.

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Serving Chronically Homeless Individuals

Beginning with the 2004 NOFA, HUD has defined “chronically homeless” as an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more OR has had at least four (4) episodes of homelessness in the past three (3) years. In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter.

As defined in the 2004-2007 NOFAs, a disabling condition is “a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions.” A disabling condition limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.

An episode of homelessness is a separate, distinct, and sustained stay on the streets and/or in an emergency homeless shelter. A chronically homeless person must be unaccompanied and disabled during each episode.

To be defined as chronically homeless, a person must be sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., living on the streets) or in emergency shelter at the time of the count or eligibility determination. The definition does not include those currently in transitional housing.

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Special Guidance on Serving Persons Who May Be Illegal Aliens

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 imposed restrictions on eligibility for receipt of public benefits. Essentially, the law provides that illegal aliens are not to receive public benefits and specifies how the inquiry into a person’s status is to be conducted. However, there is an exception to the law for community programs that are necessary for protection of life or safety. SHP transitional housing has been determined to be excepted because it provides short-term shelter or housing assistance, non-cash services at the community level and is not means-tested.

The exception does not apply to SHP permanent housing projects. For permanent housing projects, grantees that are governments are required to comply with the law and should contact their legal counsel for advice on how to comply. Grantees that are nonprofit charitable organizations are not required to, but may, verify an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status before providing assistance. If a nonprofit elects to verify citizenship or immigration status, they must follow the procedures required by the Act and should consult with their legal counsel on how to comply.

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How to Demonstrate Participant Eligibility at Application

When applying for SHP funds it is imperative that the New Project Narrative in the application demonstrates that the proposed population to be served is homeless. Applicants should indicate where the proposed population will be residing prior to acceptance in the project, and then clearly describe an outreach and engagement plan to bring the proposed population into the project.

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How to Demonstrate Compliance During Project Implementation

Recipients must maintain adequate documentation to demonstrate the eligibility of persons served by SHP funds. Below are types of documentation that HUD will accept as adequate evidence of participant eligibility.

Persons Coming from an Emergency Shelter for Homeless Persons

The grantee or project sponsor must have written verification from the emergency shelter staff that the participant has been residing at an emergency shelter for homeless persons. The verification must be on agency letterhead, signed and dated.

Persons Coming from Transitional Housing for Homeless Persons

The grantee or project sponsor must have written verification from the transitional housing facility staff that the participant has been residing in the transitional housing. The verification must be on agency letterhead, signed and dated.

The grantee or project sponsor must also have written verification with a letter from the original agency verifying that the participant was living on the streets or in an emergency shelter prior to living in the transitional housing facility (see above for required documentation) or was discharged from an institution or evicted prior to living in the transitional housing facility and would have been homeless if not for the transitional housing (see below for required documentation).

Persons Living on the Street

For Supportive Services Only projects that provide services -- such as outreach, food, health care, and clothing -- to persons who reside on the streets, it may not be feasible to require the homeless persons to document that they reside on the street. It is sufficient for the outreach staff to certify that the persons served reside on the street. The outreach or service worker should sign and date a general certification verifying that services are going to homeless persons and indicating where the persons reside.

For all other SHP projects, the grantee or project sponsor should obtain information to verify that a participant is coming from the street. This may include names of other organizations or outreach workers who have assisted them in the recent past who might provide documentation. If you are unable to verify that the person is coming from the street, have the participant prepare or you prepare a written statement about the participant’s previous living place and have the participant sign the statement and date it.

If an outreach worker or social service agency referred the participant to your agency, you must obtain written verification from the referring organization regarding where the person has been residing. This verification should be on agency letterhead, signed and dated.

Persons Coming from a Short-term Stay (up to 30 consecutive days) in an Institution

The grantee or project sponsor must have written verification on agency letterhead from the institution’s staff that the participant has been residing in the institution for 30 days or less. The verification must be signed, dated, and on agency letterhead.

The grantee must also have written verification that the participant was residing on the street or in an emergency shelter prior to the short-term stay in the institution. See above for guidance.

Persons Being Evicted from a Private Dwelling

The grantee or project sponsor must have evidence of the formal eviction proceedings indicating that the participant was being evicted within the week before receiving SHP assistance.

If the person’s family is evicting him/her, a statement describing the reason for eviction must be signed by the family member and dated. In cases where there is no formal eviction process, persons are considered evicted when they are forced out of the dwelling unit by circumstances beyond their control. In those instances, the grantee and project sponsor must obtain a signed and dated statement from the participant describing the situation. The grantee and project sponsor must make efforts to confirm that these circumstances are true and have written verification describing the efforts and attesting to their validity. The verification must be signed and dated.

The grantee and project sponsor must also have information on the income of the participant and what efforts were made to obtain housing and why, without the SHP assistance, the participant would be living on the street or in an emergency shelter.

Persons Being Discharged from a Longer Stay (>30 days) in an Institution (Including Prison)

The grantee or project sponsor must have evidence on agency letterhead from the institution’s staff that the participant was in the facility more than 30 days and is being discharged within the week before receiving SHP assistance. The grantee and project sponsor must also have information on the income of the participant and what efforts were made to obtain housing, and why, without the SHP assistance, the participant would be living on the street or in an emergency shelter. If the person is being discharged from a prison and the prison is required to provide or arrange housing upon release, the person is not homeless.

Persons Fleeing Domestic Violence

The grantee or project sponsor must have written verification from the participant that he/she is fleeing a domestic violence situation. If the participant is unable to prepare the verification, the grantee/project sponsor can prepare a written statement about the participant’s previous living situation and have the participant sign the statement and date it. Grantees and projects sponsors must also document lack of resources, lack of subsequent residence and lack of support network for persons fleeing domestic violence situations.

Youth

Youth are eligible to receive SHP assistance only if they meet the criteria listed above under Who is Considered Homeless? and they are not wards of the state under the state law where the youth resides. In addition to the documentation identified above, grantees and project sponsors serving youth must have written verification that the youth are not wards of the state.

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How to Demonstrate Eligibility for the Permanent Housing Component

The permanent housing for persons with disabilities component may only accept homeless persons with a qualifying disability and their families. In addition to the types of evidence described above, organizations administering permanent housing funded projects must maintain evidence of disability status for their clients.

Disability Status

According to the McKinney-Vento Act (Section 11382), the term “disability” means:

  1. A disability as defined in Section 223 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 423);
  2. To be determined to have, pursuant to regulations issued by the Secretary, a physical, mental, or emotional impairment which:
    1. is expected to be of long-continued and indefinite duration,
    2. substantially impedes an individual’s ability to live independently, and
    3. of a nature that could be improved by more suitable housing conditions (e.g., a substance abuse disorder if the person’s impairment could be improved by more suitable housing conditions);
  3. A developmental disability as defined in Section 102 of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000; or
  4. The disease of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or conditions arising from the etiologic agency for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

The grantee or project sponsor must have written verification from a state licensed qualified source that the person has such a disability. Qualified sources include medical services providers, certified substance abuse counselors, physicians or treating health care provider as stated in the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 423) .

To verify disability under Section 223 of the Social Security Act , program staff can ask clients to sign a release form so that staff can request a verification of benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Program staff can do this by mail or by calling the SSA information line at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the information verbally. A claim number should be included on all correspondence from SSA (award letters, benefit statements, or verification letters). Claim numbers with the suffix DI show that the individual met the definition of disabled at Section 223 of the Social Security Act.

Documenting disability when clients do not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) involves getting a written statement from a qualified source that: (1) identifies the physical, mental or emotional impairment, why it is expected to be of long-continued or indefinite duration, how it impedes the individual’s ability to live independently, and how the individual’s ability to live independently could be improved by more suitable housing conditions; (2) identifies a developmental disability; or (3) identifies AIDS or related conditions.

Grantees should also reference Health Care for the Homeless’ Documenting Disability: Simple Strategies for Medical Providers Guide for more information on documenting disability.

Section B: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can a project serve persons at risk of becoming homeless?

    No. By law, only those persons who are homeless may be served by SHP. If your organization wants to serve persons at risk of becoming homeless, persons who are “doubled up,” or persons who are “near homelessness,” it would need to use another source. HUD administers the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) program that can fund homelessness prevention activities. A variety of other programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME, serve low-income persons who may be at risk of becoming homeless due to poor housing conditions, overcrowding or other reasons. Contact your local HUD field office for more information on these and other programs.

  2. Can a project serve a person being discharged from a state mental health institution in a state that requires housing to be provided upon the person’s release?

    If your state has a policy requiring housing as part of a discharge plan, HUD does not consider those persons eligible for assistance since they will be placed in housing arranged by the state. Contact your state department of mental health or similar state agency for information on its discharge policy. If your state does not require housing as part of discharge planning, then those persons being discharged may be served as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. Please note that projects cannot be structured to target individuals being discharged from these institutions.

    As a condition for award, any governmental entity serving as an applicant must agree to develop and implement, to the maximum extent practicable and where appropriate, policies and protocols for the discharge of persons from publicly funded institutions or systems of care (such as health care facilities, foster care or other youth facilities, or correction programs and institutions) in order to prevent such discharge from immediately resulting in homelessness for such persons. This condition for award, required by law, is intended to emphasize that states and units of local government are primarily responsible for the care of these individuals, and to forestall attempts to use scarce McKinney-Vento Act funds to assist such persons in lieu of state and local resources.

  3. Are programs required to screen for sexual offenders?

    No. There is no SHP requirement for programs to screen for sexual offenders. However, program staff should consider the population being served to determine whether screening for sexual offenders is appropriate.

  4. Can SHP funds be used to lease an apartment where a participant will live with a family member?

    No. If the participant moves in with a family member, he/she no longer fits the definition of homeless. If a family is willing to house the participant, then the participant does not lack resources or support networks.

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