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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

What is the HUD Emergency Solutions Grants Program?

By: Katie Baughman, Policy Intern


The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program, altered and renamed from the original Emergency Shelter Grants Program in 2009 as part of the HEARTH Act, is a federal program aimed at assisting individuals regain housing stability after experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis. ESG is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides formula grants to cities, counties, territories, and states, who then direct funding to emergency shelters and other agencies. Funds can be used for homelessness prevention, emergency shelters, re-housing assistance, street outreach, and Homeless Management Information Systems, a technological system used to collect data on the provision of social services to people experiencing homelessness.

Since the alterations made in 2009, ESG has focused on advancing rapid, permanent solutions to homelessness, rather than just temporary shelters, and has greatly contributed to the expansion of rapid resources that address homelessness and housing crises all over the country. In FY 2023, ESG allocated $290 million towards measures that advance rapid housing stability. Further, the CARES Act, a COVID response legislation, allocated $4 billion through the ESG program to mitigate housing crises and instability caused by COVID.


Rapid housing stability is in some ways uniquely valuable in rural areas, which are more remote and often have less access to emergency shelters and other temporary and permanent solutions. Therefore, the ESG program has the potential to be a uniquely valuable, rapid response to rural housing crises. ESG’s focus on permanent stability through their re-housing assistance, as well, has the potential to benefit rural communities by addressing the difficulty for many rural individuals to find, access, and move to affordable rural housing.

However, since funding is allocated only to states, metropolitan cities, urban counties, and territories, rural areas cannot apply for and do not receive direct allocations of funds from the federal government; rather, each individual state is responsible for fund allocation. Further, funding directed towards states must go first to metropolitan cities and urban counties in the state which did not receive funding independently, meaning rural areas oftentimes receive less consideration and ultimately less funding. Individuals experiencing homelessness and housing crises in rural areas could perhaps benefit from an expansion of ESG into specifically rural areas, which could increase access to rapid housing stability.

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