HD37 - Improving the Condition of and Provision of Services to Shelters for Homeless Families

Executive Summary:
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) uses federal and state funds to assist providers of emergency shelter and transitional housing throughout the state. The Department also oversees $360,000 in state grant funds that enable homeless shelters to employ child service coordinators.

HJR 703 requested that the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) increase its efforts to improve the conditions within and services to shelters serving homeless families. The resolution stated homeless children demonstrate comparatively higher incidences of psychological problems, learning disabilities, poor academic performance, and delinquency. The resolution concluded that unsafe or unsanitary conditions in homeless shelters exacerbate these conditions.

In response to this resolution, DHCD inspected a large sample of the homeless shelters for which it provides assistance. The inspections focused on whether shelters met applicable federal Section 8 Housing Quality Standards (HQS), fire safety requirements, and health standards.


Emergency shelter and transitional housing facilities

Of the 46 emergency shelter and transitional housing facilities inspected, the inspections found 40 (87%) of them in good condition, four (9%) in fair condition and two (4%) in poor condition. Although some of those rated in good condition may need minor repairs or have experienced deferred maintenance, they provided adequate space for the residents and were maintained in an acceptable manner. Those rated in fair condition consisted of three emergency shelter facilities serving a general homeless population and one emergency shelter serving victims of domestic violence. Those rated in poor condition were both emergency shelters serving a general homeless population; one of these was unoccupied at the time of inspection.

Supportive services

As a part of the fiscal year 1999 SHARE Shelter Support Grant application for funding, DHCD requested information about each applicant's provision of the twenty-three supportive services listed in the section labeled "Background." Nineteen (41 % of sample) of the shelters included in the sample provided all of these services. Five (11% of sample) provided at least 21 of the services, ten (22% of sample) provided at least 18 of the services, four (9% of sample) provided at least 16 of the services and (17% of the sample) provided less than 16 of the services.

All of the sample shelters provided needs assessment, case management, and information and referral services. The services provided by less than 85% of the sample shelters were vocational training, job placement, adult education, legal assistance, day care, health care, and mentoring.


The primary objective of the SHARE Shelter Support Grant (SSG) is to provide funding for rehabilitation, repair, and improvements to bring existing facilities into compliance with state and local health and building codes. These activities should be completed before SSG funds are used for operations and supportive services. However, many shelter providers have focused on the immediate needs of food, health care, and a place to sleep rather than on the physical condition of the facility, placing a higher priority on these items than on routine maintenance and repair given the limited funds available and the level of needs among homeless individuals and families.

If the same percentage of shelter facilities that received a poor rating (9%) is applied to the total number of facilities housing children (126), the results suggest that eleven shelter facilities may need major repairs. In FY 1995, a one-time program offered a grant of $20,000 to shelter providers for deferred maintenance and other repairs. These repairs were made at twenty-eight facilities with an average cost of $17,114 per facility. Assuming eleven shelter facilities currently need a similar level of funding to perform deferred maintenance items and other repairs, a total of $188,254 would be needed.

An estimated $200,000 per shelter facility would be needed to rehabilitate shelters receiving a poor rating. The two facilities receiving a poor rating accounted for 4% of the sample. If 4% of the total number of shelters housing children would not pass inspection, $1,000,000 would be necessary for rehabilitation activities. These shelter facilities are eligible for SHARE Expansion Program funds if it is documented that the shelter beds will be lost without rehabilitation activities.

There are 23 shelter providers currently receiving funds through the Child Services Coordinator Program. There are 84 providers of emergency shelter and transitional housing for women and children. Providing salary support for a coordinator of children's services in all emergency shelter and transitional housing facilities serving families and children would require an additional $954,772.