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HHS To Make Available Federal Surplus Property For Supportive Housing To Assist The Homeless


January 26, 2006, HHS Deputy Secretary Alex Azar today announced that local governments and community groups will soon be able to use federal surplus property for permanent, supportive housing. This housing is to be provided in conjunction with other services that address mental and physical disabilities, substance use problems, and co-occurring mental and substance use disorders of individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness.

The key element to this initiative is the linkage between appropriate supportive health and social services to a stable housing environment, the combination of which can assist homeless individuals and families to achieve increased stability within the community.

“This proposed policy change, once finalized, will go a long way in continuing the administration’s compassionate efforts to provide supportive housing for some of our most vulnerable populations,” Deputy Secretary Azar said during a plenary session of the US Conference of Mayors 2006 Winter Meeting.

This type of housing is aimed at individuals with mental or physical disabilities or substance use problems requiring health, case management, or other supportive services. Until now, the use of federal surplus property was restricted to homeless shelters or transitional housing for up to, and not exceeding, 24 months.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act allows HHS to transfer identified federal surplus real estate to eligible non-federal applicants for purposes of homeless assistance. Applicants for federal surplus property identify how they intend to utilize the property based on the needs of their communities. Until now, eligible programs included emergency shelters, transitional housing, mental and medical health screening facilities, food banks and job training programs.

The policy change, published today in the Federal Register, will expand the options available to communities. This housing is a service model that links housing and services together, without the 24-month time limit traditionally imposed by the current transitional housing program. Public comments on today’s notice will be accepted for 30 days.

“This policy change is representative of the President’s strong commitment to end chronic homelessness through better and more coordinated community services,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Donald Young, M.D.

Current research identifies the effectiveness of supportive housing to end the cycle of homelessness, particularly for individuals with disabilities and those who are chronically homeless. It has been found to reduce the use of costly public health services, such as emergency health care, psychiatric and detoxification programs and inpatient care.


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