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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Homelessness: Grant Applicants' Characteristics and Views on the Supportive Housing Program
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Many homeless people in America have multiple personal, social, and economic problems that prevent them from obtaining permanent housing. Research has shown that housing alone is often not a solution to homelessness for many people. A comprehensive set of supportive services—such as substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, child care services, and employment assistance—is also needed. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Supportive Housing Program was established in 1992 to address this need. Organizations such as state and local government agencies and nonprofit agencies can apply to HUD for Supportive Housing Program grants, which they can use to provide housing and certain kinds of supportive services to homeless people to help them live as self-sufficiently as possible. In 1997 and 1998, HUD awarded over $620 million and $724 million, respectively, in Supportive Housing Program grants to organizations that serve the homeless.

Because many of the supportive services funded by the Supportive Housing Program mirror services provided by federal mainstream social service programs and could potentially be funded by them, there is some concern that this program may be taking scarce resources away from HUD’s core mission of providing housing. As a result, you asked us to review the Supportive Housing Program. Specifically, you asked us to provide information on (1) the characteristics of Supportive Housing Program applicants, (2) the types of programs and services for homeless people that this program supports, (3) the importance of Supportive Housing Program grants to applicants’ programs for the homeless, and (4) the various funding sources, in addition to Supportive Housing Program grants, that applicants rely on for their programs and services for homeless people. You also asked us to provide, to the extent possible, information on the percentage of veterans served by this program. This report is the third in a series of reviews you asked us to conduct on issues related to homelessness.

To provide the information that you requested, we surveyed 1,174 applicants for Supportive Housing Program grants in 1997. We surveyed applicants that requested grants for previously funded projects (renewals) as well as new projects. Some of these applicants were awarded grants, while others were not. Our results can be generalized, with a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent, to the entire group of applicants for funds in 1997; however, our results cannot be generalized to those agencies that did not submit applications that year. Furthermore, our results are based on the information reported by the applicants; we did not verify the accuracy of this information. Appendix I provides a more detailed description of our objectives, scope, and methodology. (GAO)
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