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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

What is a Continuum of Care?

By: Jarrett James Lash, Director of Policy


OVERVIEW

A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a HUD-mandated regional planning body to coordinate the work of the community in mitigating and ending homelessness locally. Continuum of Care programs can represent a city, a county, a region, or entire unincorporated sections of a state. In 1995, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began to require communities to submit a single application for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in order to streamline the funding application process, encourage coordination of housing and service providers on a local level, and promote the development of Continuums of Care (CoCs).


Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launches a CoC Annual Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) competition. The HUD-CoC Annual NOFO solicits the CoC Chair to compile a collaborative application to apply for funding across the CoC's program areas. HUD defines the function of the grant as, "funding supports a broad array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless." Last year, the HUD-CoC Annual NOFO delivered $2.794 billion across the United States.


HOW DOES THIS EFFECT RURAL AREAS?

Many rural parts of states do not have enough of a population or social service base to support their own Continuum of Care program. Consequently, many rural areas of states are cobbled together into a large patchwork of organizations, often referred to as a Balance of State CoC. Because the CoC can span hundreds of miles, it is often much more difficult to coordinate their efforts to mitigate homelessness.


In 2022, HUD launched a supplemental NOFO that included "funds set aside specifically to address homelessness in rural communities." In total, the NOFO brought an additional $322 million available to help communities address unsheltered and rural homelessness, all downstream of the Continuum of Care program.


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