RD504 - Virginia’s Homeless Programs 2019-2020 Program Year

Executive Summary:

Virginia is a recognized national leader in ending homelessness. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) plays an integral role in Virginia’s response to homelessness by focusing resources to ensure every community in the commonwealth has the capacity to:

1. Quickly identify and engage people at risk of and experiencing homelessness;

2. Intervene to prevent people from losing their housing and divert people from entering the homeless services system;

3. Provide people with immediate access to shelter and crisis services without barriers to entry if homelessness does occur;

4. Quickly connect people experiencing homelessness to housing assistance and services tailored to their unique needs and strengths to help them achieve and maintain stable housing; and

5. Use data to make program and system decisions to increase positive permanent housing outcomes.

DHCD administers the Commonwealth of Virginia’s homeless assistance resources. These resources include approximately $16 million annually in state and federal funding. In the spring of 2019, DHCD released a renewal grant application that combined state and federal funding sources (HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS/HIV along with State General Funds for homeless assistance and homeless prevention). In order to apply and receive these funds, communities were required to submit community-based applications that demonstrate an effective crisis response system designed to make homelessness, rare, brief, and non-recurring.

DHCD’s strategies continue to show measured success. Currently, the rate of homelessness per 100,000 on average in Virginia is 70, the fourth lowest in the nation. This is compared with a national average of 156.

Each year during the last ten days in January, Virginia participates in a national point-in-time (PIT) count to identify the number of individuals who are sheltered and unsheltered. This count provides a 24-hour snapshot of those who are experiencing homelessness in Virginia. DHCD collects, aggregates, and analyzes state-level PIT data to inform grant-making decisions, best practices, and trends across the commonwealth. The 2020 numbers reported here are preliminary, as HUD has not released the official PIT numbers upon the writing of this report.

Although the 2020 PIT data show a slight uptick in the number of persons who are experiencing homelessness, since 2010, there has been a 34 percent decrease. Also, since 2010 there has been a 47 percent decrease in households with children and a 48 percent decrease in chronic homeless identified during the point-in-time count. Between 2019-2020, Virginia saw a 5% decrease in persons who are chronically homeless, and a 68% decrease in families who are chronically homeless. In addition, since 2011, there has been a 57 percent decrease in veteran homelessness with a 55 percent decrease in unsheltered veterans.

While DHCD is pleased to report continued annual progress, this year has been like no other. Beginning in March 2020, so much changed. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on available services (especially congregate emergency shelters), funding, required safety protocols, and responsiveness to serve residents experiencing homelessness in Virginia. The great news is communities have stepped up and new partners have rallied to meet multiple community needs.

One of the most innovative partnerships was an effort to provide food services to individuals experiencing homelessness living in non-congregate hotel/motel shelters. Through an effort between DHCD’s Homeless and Special Needs Housing unit and DHCD’s Community Revitalization Office, local restaurants worked in conjunction with homeless assistance organizations to provide food to individuals receiving shelter services. This was a perfect partnership. Homeless service providers received funding for residents’ meals and needed a consistent means of delivering food to multiple hotels and motels, and local restaurants needed revenue to continue to stay in business.