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A 'Continuum of Care' is a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximum self sufficiency. It includes action steps to end homelessness and prevent a return to homelessness.

The components of a CoC system are outreach, intake, and assessment to identify an individual's or family's service and housing needs, and to link them to appropriate housing and/or service resources such as: emergency shelter and safe, decent alternatives to the streets; transitional housing with supportive services; and permanent housing and permanent supportive housing.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

The early 1980's saw primarily local responses to homelessness. In the years that followed, the federal government began to acknowledge homelessness as a national problem that required a national response. Signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act originally included fifteen programs providing services to homeless persons, that have since been expanded and funding significantly increased. The Act remains a landmark piece of legislation and was an essential first step to the total eradication of homelessness in America.

Hearth Act

On May 20, 2009, the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act was signed into law. This Act amends and reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The HEARTH Act made considerable changes to the McKinney-Vento Act, including the consolidation of three homeless assistance programs administered by HUD into a single grant program, renamed the 'Emergency Solution Grants' program (originally the 'Emergency Shelter Grants' program). The Act also codified into law the Continuum of Care planning process.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) & Continuum of Care Program

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD's) mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. It was established in 1965 and is administered by the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has also established local field offices including one in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Continuum of Care Program

The general Continuum of Care Program is one of the major programs administered by HUD. It is designed to promote community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness; provide funding for efforts by nonprofit providers, and State and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness; promote access to and effect utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families; and optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness. There are numerous Continuums of Care throughout the country and often multiple Continuums of Care in each state.

Under the CoC Program Interim Rule, eligible applicants for a Continuum of Care consist of nonprofit organizations, State and local governments, instrumentalities of local governments, and public housing agencies. An eligible applicant must be designated by the specific CoC to submit an application to HUD for grant funds, and the Continuum's designation must state whether the Continuum is designating more than one applicant to apply for funds, and if it is, which applicant is being designated as the Collaborative Applicant. A Continuum of Care that is designating only one applicant for funds must designate that applicant to be the Collaborative Applicant. For-profit entities are not eligible to apply for grants or to be sub-recipients of grant funds.

Indiana Balance of State Continuum of Care

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) has been designated as the Collaborative Applicant for the Indiana-502 Balance of State CoC. This Continuum contains 90 of the 91 counties in the state, with the IN-503 CoC being the Continuum of Care for Marion County. As the Collaborative Applicant, the IHCDA is instrumental in promoting community-wide commitment to ending homelessness and serves as a liason between IN-502 BOS CoC organizations and HUD. The IHCDA accepts and reviews grant applications in the annual program funding competition, administers grant awards to its partners, trains on Coordinated Entry implementation, manages the Homeless Management Information System, oversees the annual statewide Point in Time and Housing Inventory Counts, and promotes Housing First approaches throughout the state.

Finally, the IN 502 BOS CoC Board is the primary decision making body for the Balance of State CoC and meets with IHCDA monthly to develop and implement strategies and resources for ending statewide homelessness. The Regional Chairpersons oversee their respective regional councils for each of the 16 counties in the Balance of State CoC and also meet regularly to discuss strategies for homelessness alleviation.