The CoC Program: Not Just Funding
By: Margaret Hill
In the Texas counties that make up the Balance of State Continuum of Care (BoS CoC), communication and sharing of resources can be a challenge for homeless service providers. The BoS CoC is mostly made up of rural areas of the state, many of which must share resources across vast distances.
For example, an area might have one emergency shelter that is able to provide shelter for people in all of the surrounding counties. Service providers in these counties may not be aware when there is available bed space for their clients a few counties over. By participating in CoC activities such as coordinated entry and local homeless coalition meetings, homeless service providers are better able to reach out to each other across large distances to communicate their needs and coordinate services. The CoC Program is intended not only as a means for funding but as a framework within which to create solutions for better serving unhoused people.
A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a collaborative approach to planning and funding. “Continuum of Care” refers not only to HUD’s program, but also the geographical location covered by a CoC program, and the body of people that participate in homeless services within that geographic area, including service providers, advocates, local government officials, and community members.
CoC program funding is just one component of a CoC program. CoCs’ programs also provide a framework for organizing housing and services within a geographical area. The HEARTH Act says that the purpose of a Continuum of Care (CoC) is,
- “to promote a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness;
- to 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 individuals, families, and communities by homelessness;
- to promote access to, and effective utilization of, mainstream programs…and programs funded with state or local resources;
- to optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.”
Additionally, the CoC Program Interim Rule provides regulatory guidance on how CoCs should organize and govern themselves to fulfill these mandates. However, many of the specifics of how the CoC will meet these requirements is left up to each CoC. This leaves a lot of room for CoCs to create a system that meets their needs. It also provides opportunities for the CoC to be innovative and creative in the way that they include homeless service providers and other stakeholders in CoC activities and decision-making. There is a wide range of approaches to meeting the HEARTH Act and CoC Program Interim Rule requirements: from doing the bare minimum to continue to receive funding, to creating highly organized systems that incorporate other state and nonprofit funding systems and services.
As the designated lead agency of the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care (TX BoS CoC), Texas Homeless Network is tasked with assisting the CoC Board in ensuring that all CoC requirements are fulfilled. However, THN and the CoC Board strive to go beyond HUD’s minimum requirements for operating and planning, by serving all communities within the CoC, even those that don’t have CoC program-funded or ESG program-funded projects.
Many agencies and service providers that serve clients experiencing homelessness in the TX BoS CoC don’t know that they’re eligible for assistance. If your agency or organization serves clients that are within the geographical area of the TX BoS CoC, you are eligible to participate in the CoC and receive the services that THN offers. If you are an individual who lives or works within the CoC, you are also eligible to participate in CoC activities. THN encourages everyone in the CoC to get involved.
Some of the opportunities to participate include:
- Attending local homeless coalition meetings
- Starting a local homeless coalition if there isn’t one in your community
- Serving on the CoC Board or a CoC committee
- Attending CoC General Meetings
- Voting in board elections
- Submitting public comments on policy
Some benefits of participating in CoC activities include:
- Assistance in communicating with nearby communities and agencies to coordinate services
- Access to local data about homelessness
- Technical assistance and resources for your agency or coalition
- Being a voice for your community in the CoC
- Contributing to the CoC-wide and statewide efforts to prevent and end homelessness
For more information about how participating in the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care can benefit your agency or community, please reach out to email@example.com.
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