People who are experiencing homelessness or who are precariously housed will be affected directly and indirectly by the disaster as both the formal support infrastructure (e.g. emergency shelters, supportive services only facilities) and informal support structures (e.g. families sharing spaces, informal leases) may be compromised. A comprehensive long term recovery will take into account the housing and economic needs of the entire community; restore sufficient housing, jobs, and services to meet the broad spectrum of local needs; and help ensure that people who were experiencing homelessness or were precariously housed prior to the disaster become stably housed. This should be done in close consultation with the communities’ Continuum of Care (CoC), the local planning body responsible for addressing local needs for households experiencing homelessness.
Returning to pre-disaster status is not sufficient. Returning households to their pre-disaster status may be sufficient for a fully employed, well-resourced household. But returning a homeless or precariously housed household to that same condition is a missed opportunity for both the household and the community.
Recovery efforts represent a unique opportunity to strengthen the entire community. With energy and resources focused on rebuilding, there is room to consider improvements and new approaches to community challenges such as preventing and ending homelessness. The community may have access to special funding allocations, such as CDBG-DR funds, that require an expansive analysis of community needs and a broad-based response that includes economic development, infrastructure, and housing. Instead of restoring pre-disaster conditions (and shortcomings), the community should assess its full needs and establish a recovery strategy to meet those needs. By working closely with the CoC to assess the gaps and needs related to homelessness, even communities that do not receive CDBG-DR funds can find ways to combine recovery resources with traditional homelessness assistance funding sources and resources to broaden housing options and strengthen the social services network to strengthen the communities existing response to homelessness.
Providing lasting solutions to address homelessness in your community is a positive long-term investment. Investments in affordable housing may seem costly, compared to the cost of repairing or rebuilding homeless shelters. However, research shows significant costs associated with people living in shelters and on the streets. Emergency room visits and hospitalization, medical treatment, police interventions, court costs, and incarceration come at a much greater expense to the taxpayer than providing housing and supportive service opportunities. Learn more about the costs of homelessness.
It’s the law. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 (Stafford Act), as Amended, authorizes federal assistance when the President declares a state to be a disaster area. Section 308, Nondiscrimination in Disaster Assistance (42 U.S.C 5151 of the Stafford Act) protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, or economic status in all disaster assistance programs in Presidentially-declared disaster areas. The U.S. Department of Justice offers this interagency Guidance to State and Local Governments and Other Federally Assisted Recipients Engaged in Emergency Preparedness, Response, Mitigation, and Recovery Activities on Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As your community moves from response to recovery, implementing proactive solutions in close consultation and partnership with the CoC can improve chances for community-wide recovery. If your jurisdiction reacts slowly or in an uncoordinated manner, you risk deepening the crisis for individual households and ultimately the community as a whole.
See the resources in the Resources and Tools Box to learn more about actions you can take immediately, as your community transitions from response to recovery, and to position your community for an inclusive recovery.
Recovery presents a unique moment to improve local infrastructure, housing, and services to create a community that is stronger and more resilient than before the disaster. The confluence of financial resources, community engagement, and political interest raises an imperative to envision a better community, one that meets the needs of all community members, including those who were homeless or precariously housed prior to the disaster. With the rebuilding, you have an opportunity to consider the community’s comprehensive housing needs and devise a housing strategy that has sufficient units and appropriate services to provide stable housing to all community members.
As communities plan and execute their long-term recovery, they face many competing priorities. While the effects of the disaster are often severe for people experiencing homelessness, their need for housing and services may be overshadowed by the businesses, landlords, and homeowners. A healthy recovery requires an investment in housing and services for low-income households and those experiencing homelessness and it is critical to get buy-in from all stakeholders—local officials, agency staff, local business owners, and others—by demonstrating the value of investments, in terms of lives saved, equity, quality of life, and long-term cost savings.
Communities receiving CDBG-DR funds are required to take these needs into account in their planning and allocation of resources and should work closely with their CoC to ensure that the needs of people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations are not overlooked. Traditional disaster recovery programs are not designed to target people experiencing homelessness. Application procedures can pose barriers to people without documents or a place to live. And those disadvantages can accumulate to put homeless individuals back out on the street or pushed out of a community. HUD encourages a Housing First approach to removing barriers to homelessness. In addition, communities must leverage disaster recovery resources to support and expand the CoC’s outreach efforts, provide additional supportive services, and create new opportunities for persons experiencing homelessness and other hard-to-reach populations.
See the resources in the Resources and Tools Box to learn more about actions you can take as you plan for and implement your recovery.
Download the Full Recovery Guide or select individual resources and tools below.