Building a Plan: How the CARES Act Can Boost Prevention Efforts

Communities all over the country are anxiously awaiting federal
resources from the CARES Act to begin flowing. As the Alliance has
addressed inprevious
blog posts 
, these funds are desperately needed for those
working to end homelessness. While they may be short of what
researchers estimate we actually need to appropriately shelter
and house everyone
who needs it during this emergency,
 the fact remains that these
resources can have an enormous impact on the lives of
vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, if we make
plans to use them strategically.  

That’s a big challenge, because we are all working in
crisis mode right now. And as we all know, it is tempting during
a crisis, to put our heads down and focus our efforts on
our immediate needs, rather than planning ahead. In fact,
it’s a natural thing to do.  

But if there’s one thing we need everyone to understand, it is
that we must invest the time now – right now, right this
moment, and not a day later – to start planning on how we can
best use these funds to serve people through the COVID-19

The Alliance has already hosted a series of webinars to help
communities through this effort
, and we encourage everyone to
review these materials. This blog series will help people think
about how to frame their efforts, and begin the planning
process or build upon current planning efforts.  

Building a Framework  

The first step in this process is to determine your priorities
during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alliance’s framework involves
five key areas that every community should be centering their
efforts around:   

  1. Preventing and diverting people
    from imminent homelessness  
  2. Promoting the health and safety of people who
    are unsheltered, while quickly transitioning them to temporary or
    permanent housing  
  3. Expanding and improving shelter options to come into
    compliance with CDC guidance for separation, isolation, and
  4. Stabilizing households in homeless system-funded
    programs like Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) and Permanent
    Supportive Housing (PSH) 
  5. Rapidly exiting people from the homelessness system into

This blog post will specifically address the first priority:
prevention and diversion.  

Focus on Equity  

As one of our fundamental prevention efforts, communities must
double down on their commitments to racial equity during COVID-19.
As the coronavirus pandemic goes from being a public health
crisis to an economic one, we know that people of color will be
disproportionately impacted not only by the virus, but also by the
forces that will put them at risk of homelessness. It’s essential
that as we plan to put new federal resources to use, we do
everything we can so that everyone has access to the same
services, and opportunity for the same outcomes, regardless
of their race or ethnicity

Taking an Assessment  

As you consider how CARES Act resources can help support your
prevention and diversion efforts, take stock of your system’s
existing prevention and diversion capabilities. A few core
questions you should be asking:  

  • Are
    your efforts focused on people whose homelessness is
  • Are you targeting homeless prevention dollars at the front door
    of the homeless system where they can have the greatest impact and
    leveraging non-homeless system prevention dollars for more upstream
    prevention, like eviction prevention? 
  • What
    are you doing to help people maintain their current housing
    situation when it is safe and appropriate to do so?   
  • What
    is the racial makeup of people at-risk of homelessness in your
    community? How can you ensure that people of color who are most
    at-risk are able to access prevention assistance?    

 Prevention Resources  

Once all of your resources and capabilities are
assessed,  it’s time to determine what other, potentially
non-homelessness system resources can support them.   

For example, what safeguards can help ensure that people who
lose employment do not spiral straight into shelter? How can your
community advance efforts like eviction moratoriums,
rental forgiveness, and legal assistance to prevent

Additionally, state and local resources are important. The
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) is an
excellent example. Advocate for use of TANF reserves
to increase cash assistance and offer eviction prevention
assistance for at-risk families.  

Get Your Prevention and
Strategy Together  

Once you’ve assessed your current resources,
and identified other resources you can leverage to support
prevention and diversion, it’s time to start planning for what
you’ll do with new relief funds.  

Some strategy suggestions include:   

  • How
    can you use these funds to build a robust financial assistance
    pool and case management for those in RRH and PSH and those who
    recently transitioned out of homelessness?   
  • Will
    you need to boost flexible financial assistance for survivors
    of domestic violence who need help to remain safe in their own home
    or secure new housing after escaping abuse/sexual assault? 
  • Does
    your community need funds to train public sector workers (e.g.,
    criminal justice, public social services) on diversion
    practices and problem-solving efforts?   
  • Could
    federal funds help you increase problem-solving and flexible
    financial assistance efforts at Coordinated Entry Access Points, to
    identify opportunities for people to avoid shelter/unsheltered

Obviously, we are dealing with a very long list of needs – and
this is only the first of the five priority areas. But the point is
that this challenge is simply too great not to start asking these
questions and planning strategically.  

The post
Building a Plan: How the CARES Act Can Boost Prevention Efforts

appeared first on National
Alliance to End Homelessness

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