Emergency Solutions Grants Program
The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH Act) amended the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, revising the Emergency Shelter Grants Program in significant ways and renaming it the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program. The ESG Interim Rule took effect on January 4, 2012. ESG is a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded program. Funding can be awarded directly from HUD as an entitlement for higher population communities or to states where applicants apply to the state for the ESG funding. Due to the population size, Denton County is only eligible to apply to the state for ESG funding.
For Denton County, the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) is a State of Texas administered grant program for homeless and homeless prevention activities. The Texas Legislature has designated the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) as the administering agency for ESG state funds. In the case of the Denton County ESG Collaborative, the funds have previously been allocated through TDHCA to the City of Denton as the lead agency in a collaborative with four partner nonprofits. The grant requested funding to support services provided by the following service agencies: Christian Community Action, Denton County Friends of the Family, Giving Hope, Inc., and the Salvation Army Denton.
TDHCA develops the ESG application and allocates funding by regions in Texas. Continuum of Care Programs (CoC’s) are identified by HUD to administer funds in a specific
geographic area and assist organizations in those areas in the coordination of homeless services. HUD completes a formula allocation to entitlements and states annually based on the federal budget. TDHCA then allocates the state funding based on the estimated number of homeless as identified by the annual “Point-in-Time Count” conducted by each CoC.
Denton County works with the Texas Balance of Sate CoC. The Balance of State is made up of all service providers, advocates, local government officials, and citizens who work to eliminate homelessness in over 216 counties in Texas outside of most major metropolitan cities. The Balance of State CoC is the largest CoC region in Texas. TDHCA does allow CoC’s to manage the local grant competition. There are a few CoC’s in Texas that opt to do this. The Balance of State CoC chooses to allow TDHCA to manage the grant application process.
Eligible agencies that apply to TDHCA do so as a single organization or as a collaboration. Collaborative applications are submitted as one application. Denton submits a collaborative application which include four partner agencies – Christian Community Action, Denton County Friends of the Family, Giving Hope, Inc., and the Salvation Army Denton. The City of Denton serves as lead agency for the application working with the Collaborative by providing administrative support including assembling the applications of four agencies into one collaborative application; compiling and submitting monthly expense and performance reports to TDHCA under contract; and helping ensure each agency is in compliance with Federal grant guidelines.
There is history of ESGP and ESG funding awarded to single agencies in Denton County in some grant years going back as early as 1989 but in 2012 the ESG grant was awarded each year through the 2015-16 grant year. Funding prior to 2010 focused on shelters and temporary solutions to homelessness. Due to this shift in applying as a collaborative starting in 2010, ESG funds increased steadily to the 2015-16 amount of $600,339. 2016-17. However, the Emergency Solutions Grant application was not awarded to Denton County in 2016-17. ESG is a competitive grant application process where the total overall score determines if the application will be funded. There has been a change in HUD’s focus in this area and now there is an emphasis on “housing first” and permanent housing. This is increasingly becoming a part of the evaluation of applications and awards. Applications are given more weight if rather than temporary housing they result in permanent housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness. This is further evidenced by the loss of another transitional housing CoC grant in 2016 that Giving Hope, Inc. had received annually for a number of years.
The Collaborative application did not receive funding because crucial points were lost in three sections described in detail below.
- The system for homeless service delivery does not move enough of the clients served into permanent housing.
- The number of clients who have increased income and/or non-cash benefits to maintain permanent housing is not meeting expected targets.
- Not enough of the funds are committed to permanent housing solutions like rapid rehousing.
A number of changes have been made to the current application for 2017-18 and 2018-19 (TDHCA has moved to a two year grant cycle) based on the system-wide planning efforts of the collaborative partners and the systems change strategies of the Denton County Homeless Leadership Team and the Denton County Homeless Coalition in 2016 and 2017. Denton County is now focused on moving people experiencing homelessness to housing. Our Housing Crisis Response System uses key tools like Coordinated Entry (CE), the Housing Priority List (HPL), and ongoing analysis of System Performance Measures (SPMs) to do this work. ESG funding will be a valuable resource in helping Denton County achieve its goal to make homelessness in Denton County rare, brief and nonrecurring.
ESG funds are used for five programs as well as administrative activities. The programs are Street Outreach, Emergency Shelter, Homelessness Prevention, Rapid Re-Housing and Homeless Management Information System. The integration of these programs to each other is a key strategy. Below is a brief description of each activity:
- Street Outreach funding is used for providing essential services necessary to reach out to unsheltered homeless people on the street, connect them with emergency shelter, housing, or critical services and provide urgent, non-facility based care where needed. Giving Hope, Inc. provides Street Outreach services in Denton.
- Emergency Shelter funding addresses the immediate needs of homeless persons living on the street by providing temporary housing and helps to enable homeless persons to
become more independent. Emergency Shelter is provided by Denton County Friends of the Family and The Salvation Army Denton.
- Homelessness Prevention funding provides short- and/or medium-term rental assistance necessary to prevent an individual or family from moving into an emergency shelter or a
place that is not fit for human habitation. Homelessness Prevention programs include Giving Hope, Inc. in Denton and Christian Community Action in Lewisville.
- Rapid Re-Housing funding provides housing relocation and stabilization services and assistance as necessary to help a homeless individual or family move as quickly as possible into permanent housing and achieve stability in that housing. Giving Hope, Inc. provides Rapid Re-Housing Assistance in Denton.
- All agencies receiving ESG funds, except as prohibited by law, are required to participate in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). As a domestic violence services provider, Denton County Friends of the Family is prohibited by law from participating in HMIS.