What is Continuum of Care (CoC)?

So many people find themselves having a hard time handling housing costs these days. In fact, millions of Americans are overpaying on housing costs and millions more are in poverty. That is why the government has a variety of support options. These options are designed to help those dealing with hard times. One support opportunity that often gets overlooked is Continuum of Care (CoC).

What is Continuum of Care (CoC)?

CoC is a local or regional body that plans and coordinates services and housing funding for individuals and families dealing with homelessness. Some history of the program that’s worth noting dates back to 1995. Back in 1995, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started requiring communities to submit a single application for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. They made this requirement in hopes to streamline the funding application process. On top of that, a single application encourages the coordination of housing and service providers locally while promoting the development of CoCs. Through this coordination, HUD had the hopes to get a structural and strategic approach to both housing and providing services to homeless people. In order to help with the strategic side of things, a CoC can help by giving homeless people services and housing designed for their specific needs.

There are Four Parts of CoC

HUD defines CoC as “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.”

There are four main parts that HUD identifies as being necessary for a CoC. These parts are:

  • Outreach, assessment, and intake of individuals to identify the needs of those in need. This includes the housing and service needs as well as provide a link to the adequate level of both.
  • Emergency shelter opportunities that can give safe and immediate shelter. This is an alternative to individuals and families that would otherwise sleep on the street.
  • Transitional housing that also provides support services designed to develop skills of those in need. The skills that people will learn will help them once they have a permanent house.
  • Permanent and permanent supportive housing in order to give families and individuals the opportunity to get an affordable place to live with services (if necessary).

What are Important Activities for CoC 

Since CoCs are designed for local (or regional) support, they will be the ones that need to manage and track the homeless community of their area. One of the most important activities that CoCs will do is try to track down and count the homeless people in their locality. They will do this biannually which means two times a year! Another important activity that CoCs will conduct is the yearly count for transitional housing units, emergency systems, and beds that are a part of the homeless assistance systems.

Why are These Counts Important?

The reason that these counts are important is because they give an overview of the homeless community that CoCs are aiming to support. It can also give CoCs the numbers they need to properly redirect their funding, resources, and services accordingly.

Understanding CoC Support

We talked about the four parts of a CoC earlier. It’s important to specifically highlight some of the parts that are able to benefit people dealing with homelessness. Some of the parts that we talked about were emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing. While each CoC will have their own specific support opportunities for their locality or region, you can expect to come across at least one (if not all) of these types of housing support opportunities.

Emergency Shelters

Homeless shelters are a type of emergency shelter that provides the homeless a place to stay. There are a variety of organizations that provide support to these shelters that are able to give back to their community. Every homeless shelter is different so how long you will be able to stay will vary. During their stay, people can expect to get a meal and a bed (usually a cot) to sleep on.

Depending on the shelter there may even be services available for medical screenings or psychological support. These shelters are first come first serve. That means the first people to arrive will get served first. If a shelter reaches its capacity then it will have to turn away people until it is no longer fully occupied. You can search for homeless shelters in your area by looking online or getting in touch with local support agencies like your local PHA, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Transitional Housing

There are a variety types of transitional housing available to those in need. Popular transitional housing includes:

  • Transitional Shelters
  • Rapid Re-Housing

Transitional Shelters

Unlike an emergency shelter, transitional shelters typically give people the opportunity to get housing support for a longer time period. The exact period will vary depending on the shelter and can be for a period up to 24 months. The goal of transitional shelters is to give people the tools they need in order to work towards self-sufficiency like starting their careers, getting permanent housing, resolving personal challenges, and more.

Rapid Re-Housing

Another housing support option is rapid re-housing. This support option gives short-term rental assistance and services to those in need. The goal of this support opportunity is to give support to people who are trying to get housing quickly while helping people achieve self-sufficiency. There are no preconditions that come along with this support option. That means there will not be employment requirements, criminal record limitations, etc. This is different from transitional housing because it is less expensive but also lasts for a shorter period of time.

Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is a type of support housing opportunity that aims to provide both affordable housing assistance and voluntary support services. The services are designed to address the needs of people that often deal with homelessness. The goal of these services is meant to build independent living and tenancy skills. On top of that, it is supposed to connect people with the right services for healthcare, treatment, and employment.

Bottom Line

If you are facing homelssness, there may be more support than you realize for your situation. One often overlooked support opportunity is Continuum of Care (CoC). CoC is a local or regional body that plans and coordinates service and housing funding for individuals and families dealing with homelessness. There are four main parts that HUD identifies as being necessary for a CoC. These parts are;

  • Outreach, assessment, and intake of individuals to identify the needs of those in need. This includes the housing and service needs as well as provide a link to the adequate level of both.
  • Emergency shelter opportunities that can give safe and immediate shelter. This is an alternative to individuals and families that would otherwise sleep on the street.
  • Transitional housing that also provides support services designed to develop skills of those in need. The skills that people will learn will help them once they have a permanent house.
  • Permanent and permanent supportive housing in order to give families and individuals the opportunity to get an affordable place to live with services (if necessary).

For more information you will want to get in touch with local agencies like your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). They will have information about local housing support available!

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