California Department of Housing and Community Development failed to get funding homeless population

Robert J Hansen
Seal of CA State Auditor and California Department of Housing and Community DevelopmentPublic Domain

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) did not provide proper access to federal funding for homeless communities according to a report by the State Auditor.

More than 161,000 Californians are homeless according to and the COVID‑19 pandemic poses a particular set of health risks for this vulnerable population according to the report.

Individuals who are homeless often face an increased risk of serious illness from COVID‑19, for reasons ranging from inadequate access to sanitation to a lack of health care resources.

Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, which received $316 million in federal funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID‑19 pandemic for individuals who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. 

“The department [HCD] failed to expedite access to federal funding to address the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the homeless population,” Elaine Howle, California State Auditor said in a statement.

HCD’s delays in providing access to this funding hampered the efforts of Continuum of Care (CoC) entities which are groups of organizations and individuals that collaborate on homeless services and prevention for specific geographic areas, according to Howle.

“Local CoC entities, which provide homeless services, did not have access to much of the funding during the height of the pandemic because the department took too long to finalize contracts,” Howle said.

HCD did not give most CoCs access to the first round of federal funding until December 2020, seven months after the federal government announced the funding. 

The department also only recently gave most CoCs access to the second, larger round of funding. These delays slowed the CoCs’ abilities to contract with service providers and to expand services for the vulnerable homeless population.

Because CoCs did not have access to the funds in a timely manner, they may struggle to spend the full allocations within federally mandated time frames and may lose the funding according to the report.

The HCD responsed saying it takes these audit findings very seriously and are committed to adequately and expeditiously addressing all concerns identified by the CSA. 

“HCD recognizes no one program can solve homelessness, though we believe a coordinated, collaborative, and data-informed effort across the spectrum of State activities can,” HCD in a statement.

The federal government and funding recipients across the country have continuously worked together to adapt to and modify program guidelines and requirements for serving the homeless population according to the evolving and unprecedented nature of this emergency, according to the statement.

Unhoused resident and community leader Jennie Welles said things like this are not new to those who have experienced homelessness.

“This is normal,” Welles said. “Every time some big plan to help the homeless comes along, the people new to being homeless become wide eyed and bushy tailed.”

Welles, 43, has been homeless since she was 18 years old.

“However those of us who’ve had to endure this same scenario year after year don’t even bother,” Welles said. 

Welles said the government has never  provided the services it says it will. 

“Everyday we have either the media, citizens or the government making us out as worthless criminals,” Welles said. 

HCD said it was on track to exceed the 20 percent requirement on September 30, 2021 having dispersed 19 percent of funds as of June 30, 2021.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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