Why this Guide

The importance of the recovery process

Local Resources

Why this Guide is Important

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.


The Planning Guide for Local Jurisdictions and the Response Guide for Local Jurisdictions address gaps in local disaster planning and response to ensure an inclusive disaster response that protects people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable people. This Recovery Guide for Local Jurisdictions builds on these fundamental activities to ensure an inclusive recovery. It describes strategies to help the community use the rebuilding process and its resources to meet the needs of all residents including its most vulnerable. It includes two sections:

  • Immediate Actions describes how the jurisdiction can make immediate use of disaster recovery resources to ensure that persons experiencing homelessness have access to the essential services they need to transition safely from the disaster shelter and take part in the larger recovery effort.
  • Long Term Recovery describes how the jurisdiction can ensure that the recovery process includes people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness. These actions include the intentional use of disaster recovery resources for extra outreach and services, a range of housing options, and active engagement of service providers.

Immediate Actions

Move quickly to stabilize the most vulnerable in your community and provide them a pathway to recovery

Why you must take immediate action

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.

  • Disasters deepen the crisis for people experiencing homelessness. As the disaster recedes, improvements at the community level can mask suffering of individuals experiencing homelessness. Because of the emphasis on restoration of pre-disaster property, people who were homeless prior to the disaster may not be seen as being affected; however, loss of income, loss of personal items, disruption of services like food banks and public transportation, and lost connections to support networks all compound the crisis of homelessness and impede recovery.




  • The service network may be at risk. Existing homeless services providers within the CoC may suffer damage to facilities, loss of staff, and disruptions to operations while they are called upon to meet an increase in people seeking assistance. People who were precariously housed prior to the disaster may lose their housing and/or jobs, increasing the number of people in need of support and services.
  • Existing systems and funding sources are not up to the task. Relying solely on your community’s existing CoC, ESG, HOPWA and other programs targeted to special needs populations will likely not be sufficient to large scale post-emergency needs. Further, post-disaster programs run by FEMA, voluntary agencies, the Red Cross, and state and local governments are not set up to provide housing or services for people who were homeless prior to the disaster. Business as usual will not be enough to address the profound disruptions that occur post disaster.

Resources and strategies for immediate action

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.


Long Term Recovery

Ensure an inclusive recovery that meets the needs of all community members

Recovery is an opportunity to strengthen the community’s response to housing insecurity

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.

Challenges to an inclusive recovery

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.

Resources and strategies for an inclusive long term recovery

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 All Tools

Download a PDF with the full guide or individual tools


Download the Full Recovery Guide or select individual resources and tools below.

Immediate Actions: Move quickly to stabilize the most vulnerable in your community and provide them a pathway to recovery

Strategies for Immediate Action

An overview of strategies for early intervention post disaster

Funding Guide: Recovery Resources to Provide Housing and Services to People Experiencing Homelessness

A list of funding sources that can be used post disaster to provide housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness

Long Term Recovery: Ensure an inclusive recovery that meets the needs of all community members

Overview: Approaches to an Inclusive Recovery

An overview of strategies for an inclusive, long-term recovery

Strategy: Housing First

A description of the Housing First approach to addressing homelessness

Strategy: Address Homelessness in your CDBG-DR Action Plan


Step-by-step guidance on how to meet CDBG-DR Action Plan requirements for addressing homelessness

Homeless Preference in Multifamily Housing


Guidance and tools to implement a post-disaster homeless preference in multifamily housing

Strategy: Tenant Rental Assistance


Guidance and tools to ensure that people experiencing homelessness can access tenant rental assistance after a disaster