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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

What is the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act?

By: Katie Baughman, Policy Intern


The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act), codified in 2009 under the Obama administration, reauthorized and amended the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act. It is the largest source of funding for homeless assistance programs in the nation, and expands upon the goal of providing long-term stability for individuals and families chronically at risk of homelessness. The Act expanded upon and increased funding for HUD homelessness programs. It consolidated three separate competitive HUD grant programs (Supportive Housing, Shelter Plus Care, and Single Room Occupancy) into one program, called the Continuum of Care program. The HEARTH Act also created programs like the Emergency Solutions Grant, aimed at creating housing solutions for homelessness, and altered the grant program called the Rural Housing Stability Assistance. Its amendments also federally redefined homelessness and chronic homelessness to include people imminently at risk of homelessness and people fleeing domestic violence; this broadened scope allows for more individuals and families to be included in federal homelessness prevention programs.


The HEARTH Act is the main federal program aimed at homelessness prevention, and as such is an essential program for rural Americans who are facing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Many low-income and remote rural areas face especially high rates of chronic homelessness, which the HEARTH Act specifically aims to combat. Many individuals living in rural areas have limited access to supportive services housing, as well; the HEARTH Act’s allocation of funding towards long-term, stable housing solutions provides an accessible alternative to these programs for rural communities. 

While the Act is a widespread act that authorizes many programs encompassing both rural and urban areas, it also contains programs specifically geared towards fighting rural homelessness, such as the Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program, a grant program which replaced the former Rural Homelessness Grant Program. Additionally, as of 2023, the HEARTH Act’s Continuum of Care program, while not solely aimed towards rural communities, provides $486 million in funding and resources towards 62 rural CoC communities, which each provide resources to expand access to stable and affordable housing in rural communities. The HEARTH Act and its programs and provisions are essential in the current ongoing fight against rural homelessness.

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