HEARTH Act Section-by-Section Analysis


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Federal Policy Brief | June 17, 2009

Files: PDF | 58 KB | 16 pages

The HEARTH Act is the first significant reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs in nearly 20 years and allocates millions more to homelessness prevention, rapidly re-housing homeless families, and providing permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities. It also modernizes and streamlines housing and services to more efficiently meet the needs of people seeking assistance. The bill, which was included as part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, reauthorizes the Department of Housing and Urban Development's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs, which represent the largest federal investment in preventing and ending homelessness.

This document provides a section-by-section analysis of the federal law, explaining what each section means and how it deviates from the original McKinney-Vento legislation.

Below is a brief portion of the analysis:

SEC. 1—Short Title; Table of Contents. The short title is the "Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009".

SEC. 2—Findings and Purpose. The findings are that lack of affordable housing and housing assistance cause homelessness and that homelessness affects rural, suburban and urban communities. The purposes of the HEARTH Act are to consolidate homeless assistance programs, codify the continuum of care planning process, and establish a goal of ensuring that families who become homeless return to permanent housing within 30 days.

SEC. 3—Definition of Homelessness. Expands the statutory definition of homelessness to include the following situations:

  • people who lived in a shelter or a place not meant for human habitation prior to temporarily residing in an institutional care setting would be considered homeless upon their exit;
  • people who will imminently lose their housing and lack the resources and support networks needed to find other housing, including those who are being evicted within 14 days, people living in a hotel or motel and who lack the resources to stay for more than 14 days, people who are doubled up and must leave within 14 days (HUD now considers people who had to leave within 7 days to be homeless, although that was not specifically defined in statute);
  • unaccompanied youth and homeless families who have not lived independently for a long time, have experienced persistent instability, and will continue to experience instability because of disability, health problem, domestic violence, addiction, abuse, or multiple barriers to employment.
  • People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence (HUD now considers people in this situation to be homeless, although it is not specifically defined in statute.