What is a Continuum of Care?
A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a regional or local planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals.
In 1995, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began to require communities to submit a single application for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in order to streamline the funding application process, encourage coordination of housing and service providers on a local level, and promote the development of Continuums of Care (CoCs). By requiring communities to submit a single application, HUD hoped to encourage a more structural and strategic approach to both housing and providing services to homeless people. A CoC would provide this more strategic system by providing homeless people with housing and services appropriate to their range of needs.
The Four Parts of a Continuum
According to HUD, a CoC is “a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximize self-sufficiency. It includes action steps to end homelessness and prevent a return to homelessness.” HUD identifies four necessary parts of a continuum:
Outreach, intake, and assessment in order to identify service and housing needs and provide a link to the appropriate level of both;
Emergency shelter to provide an immediate and safe alternative to sleeping on the streets, especially for homeless families with children;
Transitional housing with supportive services to allow for the development of skills that will be needed once permanently housed; and
Permanent and permanent supportive housing to provide individuals and families with an affordable place to live with services if needed.
CoCs are tasked to track and manage the homeless community in their area. One of the most important activities entrusted to CoCs is the annual count of the homeless population and an annual enumeration of emergency systems, transitional housing units, and beds that make up the homeless assistance systems. These counts provide an overview of the state of homelessness in a CoC, and offer the information necessary to redirect services, funding, and resources as necessary. The CoC also manages these services, offering both prevention strategies and homeless assistance programs to assist those at-risk of or experiencing homelessness.
HUD Continuum of Care Program
Each year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) solicits grant applications through a community-based process to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness. This process, known as the Continuum of Care Program (CoC), facilitates grants designed to address the problems of homelessness in a comprehensive manner with other federal agencies.
The HUD CoC Program is designed to:
Promote a community-based solution to ending homelessness;
Provide funding to nonprofits, States, and local governments to prevent and quickly re-house individual and families experiencing homelessness;
Minimize the trauma and dislocation that individuals, families, and communities experience as a result of homelessness; and
Promote the effective utilization of mainstream resources.
Continuum of Care also refers to a community-based group composed of representation from a cross-section of providers, community entities, representatives of mainstream resources, and individuals from one or more localities that have joined together for these purposes. The CoC organization is responsible for developing local community-based solutions to homelessness and applying for HUD funding through a collaborative grant application. The CoC organization in the Central Sierra Foothill region which includes the following localities: the Counties of Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne. Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency, a CAA established in 1981 is the lead agency for CSCoC and manages the annual HUD CoC grant application process.
HUD announces the beginning of the annual grant competition by publishing a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The NOFA provides detailed information about the application process including deadlines, eligible applicants, activities and costs. Anyone interested in applying for HUD funding should become familiar with the federal legislation governing CoC funding, Program Interim Rule Part 578 Continuum of Care Program as well as the NOFA. Applicants should also check this website often as the grant information is updated on a regular basis.