H.P.R.P. Is it working? Part II

Posted: July 27, 2010 in homelessness
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Although the current recession has been hard for most Americans, it’s been especially hard for those who are already living below the poverty level.

Even with all of the new government programs such as H.U.D.’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that are intended to help the poor, many families are still falling through the cracks of the system and facing homelessness for the first time in their life.

Dateline NBC broadcast a special report July 25, 2010 that featured several families in Ohio that have been struggling to keep afloat in the faltering economy there. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38382773/ns/dateline_nbc-america_now

Jack Frech is Director of Job and Family Services for Ohio’s Athens County and he told Ann Curry in an interview, “It may not be what we expect, but it’s what we accept. You know, all kind of arrangements are being made out there because people can’t afford decent housing on their own. What’s happening is families are doubling and tripling up in their housing, bringing their children and their grandchildren in.”

Ann Curry and her team spent only nine months in Ohio and witnessed men and women struggling to feed their families, children sleeping in basements and infants living in cars – conditions we’ve come to expect in other, less privileged nations.

Ann said, “If you think these are rare, isolated parts of 21st century American life, consider this: Poverty in America increased by at least 2.5 million people in the Great Recession and is reaching its highest level in nearly two decades.”

According to her report a new Duke University study was commissioned and published by the Madison Ave based Foundation for Child Development. It projects that, by the end of this year, nearly 22 percent of American children will be living in poverty – that’s an increase of nearly five percent in the last four years.

I have seen the same effects locally as well. Homeless shelters here have reported as much as a 30% increase of people needing their services.

I recently was given the opportunity to lead chapel services at a local shelter where they allow people with low income to receive free food and clothing. The chapel was filled to overflowing capacity. Not because they were interested in what I had to say of course, but because they needed food and clothes for their children.

Most of the people who arrived at the shelter are honest, hard working people that just can’t find work or have jobs that only pay minimum wage. Not nearly enough to pay rent, utilities, and other daily essentials.

I began to wonder why these people couldn’t get help with so many programs and resources available to them. It took me quite a while to find any local information about this but I finally found some interesting statistics.

As of July 2010 there were over 1000 households who applied for HPRP but only 68 have been served.  Out of 937 applicants, 372 did not meet the entry criteria, 214 are on a waiting list, and 286 met the criteria but not on a waiting list because of low points, and 65 were denied.

Many households are denied assistance because they do not have sustainable income. Although according to HUD’s web site it states that, “providing proof of income or the ability to sustain housing when HPRP assistance ends is not an eligibility requirement for HPRP.”

Below are the requirements set forth by HUD to determine if someone is eligible for HPRP:

The first step in any HPRP program is determining if a household applying for HPRP assistance is eligible to receive assistance under HPRP. In order to receive HPRP-funded Financial Assistance and/or Housing Relocation and Stabilization Services, households must meet at least the following minimum criteria:

1. Initial Consultation & Eligibility Determination: the household must receive at least an initial consultation and eligibility assessment with a case manager or other authorized representative who can determine eligibility and the appropriate type of assistance needed;

2. Income: the household’s total income must be at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) (details on determining AMI and documenting income are provided later in the document);

3. Housing Status: the household must be either homeless (to receive rapid re-housing assistance) OR at risk of losing its housing (to receive homelessness prevention assistance);

AND must meet the following circumstances:   a) No appropriate subsequent housing options have been identified;  b)The household lacks the financial resources to obtain immediate housing or remain in its existing housing; and  c)The household lacks support networks needed to obtain immediate housing or remain in its existing housing.

The criteria listed above are the minimum criteria set forth by HUD to determine eligibility for HPRP. HUD encourages grantees to examine local need to determine if additional risk factors or other determinants should be used to determine eligibility.

Here is a more detailed discussion on the Eligible Participants (Clients) from the HUD web site FAQs page:

Is an applicant required to have an income to be eligible for HPRP assistance? In the Program Notice, HUD emphasizes that HPRP assistance is temporary, and as a result, applicants should be able to maintain their housing once HPRP assistance ends.

The HPRP Notice states that the intent of these Recovery Act funds is to assist those persons who are most likely to be able to sustain housing on their own after HPRP assistance ends. However, providing proof of income or the ability to sustain housing when HPRP assistance ends is not an eligibility requirement for HPRP. Because HPRP is temporary in nature, grantees and subgrantees may consider the expected ability of the program participant to achieve and maintain stable housing (unsubsidized or subsidized) once the assistance ends. However, there are many different paths to stability. Just because an applicant does not have income at the time of application does not mean he/she will not be able to achieve stability during the term of assistance (particularly if the applicant has a stable employment history and marketable job skills but was recently laid off).

HUD cautions grantees against creating barriers for persons in need of this assistance, or putting in place criteria that are so strict that they cannot find households to serve. Instead, case managers should be fully assessing each client’s situation (housing history, employment history/prospects, financial situation, etc.) and establishing a service plan that will help them become stabilized during the term of assistance.

Additionally, it is important to remember that who is served under HPRP will depend on a number of local factors, including how much funding the grantee has allocated towards services, as well as other programs available in the community to help those that have significant barriers and need long term, intensive support. In other words, while the goal of HPRP is to serve households that are “most in need of temporary assistance, and yet likely to achieve stable housing,” stability is not an eligibility criteria and grantees should not reject applicants based on an arbitrary indicator they are equating with stability (e.g., income at the time of application).


I found that the problem getting approved for HPRP is not just a local problem. Below are comments posted on a forum about HPRP:


Here in Los Angeles it is adminstered by Legal Aid through the Los Angeles Housing Department, and it is virtually impossible to get assistance through them, if you don’t have proof of sustainability. Even then, it’s an iffy proposition even if you’re being evicted, because of the way they are administering the program. IF they deign to assist you, once you prove you can sustain. They also tell you that the landlord has to be willing to accept the assistance, blah blah. In other words, you have to have a job or the abillity to show future ongoing income to get assistance. What’s so messed up is that the program is designed to prevent homelessness, but they act as if it is their money and they are God dispensing salvation to the elect. Now I ask you, what’s the point of the program, because, so far, I’m on the verge of homelessness, yet the program is inaccessible to me because I have no income.

I live in Florida and am trying to see if i can get help from this program, I have an appointment scheduled for June 9th (which was the soonest they had) But i have also heard the same as YDS posted that if you can not prove to them that you will be able to take care of your rent after they assist you they will not help you. Well Geez if i had a job i probably would not need there assistance.

Personally, I look hard and wide for such help before I was forced to go homeless. It wasn’t there for me, due to just some details of “qualification” — which actually increased the frustration and exasperation of “falling through the safety net” that others enjoy.

I became homeless in April 2010 …my last unemployment check was March 2010…every agency I went to ask me the same stupid question ….If we help you today how can you pay for next month; my answer will be I dont (sic) know I am just worried about this month situation…their (sic) answer will be sorry but we cannot help you then.

So why do sub-grantees sometimes insist that in order to meet the criteria the applicant must have sustainable income? Common sense tells us that if someone had sustainable income they probably wouldn’t be seeking assistance.

I have written letters and emails to several government officials about this but as of this writing I have not gotten a response from any of them. In theory, the HPRP program should drastically reduce the number of households that are facing homelessness. Hopefully, in the weeks ahead I will receive a response from someone who can come up with a solution.

  1. Sandra says:

    I’m totally with you all on this one, my husband and I are both unemployed, our benefits have run out and are dealing with possible eviction and after months of bugging these people we did get approved, only to find out that “THERE IS NO MORE MONEY”, we got a letter stating that we would no longer be getting help, because there is no more money and we have to call and start the program again, and when you do call, they just put you into a recording that says, “THERE IS NO MORE MONEY”. I ask you why would I go through that whole thing again “THERE IS NO MORE MONEY” I am being told. I was asked over and over again if they helped me how would I pay once they stop the program that was to last 12 to 13 months, ummmm! It only paid one month, not enough time to get me back on my feet. What the heck is going on? I need a live person answering my questions, not a voice mail that keeps telling you to push 50 different extensions and then puts you right back to the first one that says “THERE IS NO MORE MONEY”, Talk about fustration! Good Luck to all of you out there, My heart and prayers are with you. Hang in there.

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