HUD's Definition of Homelessness: Resources and Guidance

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HUD's Definition of Homelessness: Resources and Guidance
This listserv reviews existing resources related to HUD’s definition of homelessness and provides important reminders when documenting someone’s homeless status. Additionally, it announces the availability of a new resource to help intake workers document someone’s homeless status.

Homeless Definition

The first page of the Criteria and Recordkeeping Requirements for the Definition of Homeless provides a good, high-level overview of each of the four categories of HUD’s definition of homelessness (the second page details the recordkeeping requirements). Since its publication, HUD has also published Determining Homeless Status of Youth to help providers understand how youth meet HUD’s definition of homelessness in each of the four categories, though that guidance expands easily to help providers assess definition eligibility of other populations. This document helps to clarify that individuals who lack resources and support networks to obtain permanent housing meet HUD’s definition of homeless.
Categories of homeless include experiences of those who:
  1. Are trading sex for housing
  2. Are staying with friends, but cannot stay there for longer than 14 days
  3. Are being trafficked
  4. Left home because of physical, emotional, or financial abuse or threats of abuse and have no safe, alternative housing

Documenting Homeless Status

HUD recently released a new online training, Recordkeeping and Documenting Homeless Status, to help intake workers better understand the categories of evidence required by HUD to document someone’s homeless status and the preferred order of priority for obtaining the evidence. It also helps intake workers apply these standards to case-based scenarios.
While completing the online training, keep in mind:
  • Documentation, or the lack of documentation, must not keep someone from receiving emergency crisis services.
  • The safety of individuals should be the top priority. An intake worker should never contact somebody that the individual fears will put them at risk of harm, even if that person could verify details the individual is providing. Document the situation accurately and adequately by describing the circumstances, but do not put people in harm’s way for the sake of third-party verification.
  • Individuals are not responsible for obtaining their own documentation. Instead, intake workers are responsible for documenting someone’s homeless status using contact information provided by the person during the intake interview. If documentation cannot be obtained, intake workers should document their due diligence in attempting to obtain the documentation. Consider creating a standardized form to track due-diligence.
  • With the exception of Category 3, individuals can always self-certify their homeless status.
Self-Certification Examples:
  • Example 1: If a person who has been sleeping outside for a week presents to an emergency shelter, the intake worker should not require documentation from an outreach worker of the person’s current sleeping location in order to provide a bed in the emergency shelter. The intake worker can accept the person’s self-certification of homelessness.
  • Example 2: If a young person is fleeing because a parent becomes violent, the intake worker should not contact the parents to verify the story unless the young person indicates that it is safe to do so.*
As a final reminder, verifying and documenting someone’s homeless status is only the first step in determining eligibility for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) or Continuum of Care (CoC) Program resources. Different types of ESG and CoC program-funded projects may have different eligibility criteria that are defined in regulations and annual funding announcements. Also, your local CoC may have policies that prioritize people based on certain eligibility criteria. In these cases, an ESG or CoC program provider must understand and document these additional eligibility criteria in addition to documenting someone’s homeless status.

Additional Resources

*There may be additional local laws that require an intake worker to contact parents or the local child welfare agency for minors. Please ensure consideration of local laws.
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