Study Examines PHAs’ Role in Ending Homelessness

written by Sam Batko
April 1, 2014

Does your local Public Housing Agency (PHA), the organization that administers HUD's low-income public housing and other HUD programs in your community, participate in local decisions about how to address homelessness? Is your PHA involved in your local Continuum of Care (CoC)?

If the answer to both these questions is yes, then your PHA is more likely to make efforts to serve homeless households through the Section 8 housing program or other public housing program than a PHA that doesn’t, according to a recently released report by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research: "Study of PHAs’ Efforts to Serve People Experiencing Homelessness."

This report examines data collected from about 4,000 PHAs through an online survey and follow-up telephone interviews with 120 PHAs. Overall, 24 percent of PHAs have a prioritization that enables them to serve people experiencing homelessness and remove barriers that make it hard for them to access housing assistance programs.

Among the other findings in the report:

  • Larger PHAs and those in metropolitan areas are more likely to make specific efforts to serve homeless persons.
  • More than 53 percent of the national inventory of public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers are controlled by PHAs that have targeted efforts to serve homeless persons.
  • PHAs that administer HUD McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs are more likely to have a strong general preference for homeless households.

The study also found that PHAs are making attempts to help homeless households overcome barriers to accessing housing assistance. Some PHAs have adopted liberal reinstatement policies so that homeless households who have no fixed address or contact information are not permanently removed from waiting lists if they cannot be easily found.

Additionally, PHAs partner with organizations to assist homeless households gather background documentation and adopt flexible rental history and criminal background screening to limit the number of households screened out.

A PHA can be a key partner in ending homelessness in a community. Community and CoC leaders should develop and nurture a relationship with their PHA. You can find some helpful tips on how to do that in the presentations on partnering with your public housing agency from our 2014 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.