The federal funding San Diego gets to combat homelessness is less than other U.S. cities with smaller homeless populations, a disparity we examined in an in-depth story last week.

Local congressional representatives and Mayor Bob Filner say they will lobby the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to change its formulas and give San Diego — home to the third-highest homeless population in the country — a larger share. But what happens to the money the city does receive?

How Much Is It?

In the most recent funding round, San Diego was eligible to apply for $15.7 million from a key federal HUD homelessness grants program. That’s a significant stream of money into the local homelessness sector.

San Diego starts with a smaller amount of funding than other cities, because of how the city ranks in antiquated federal formulas. The region has, however, grown its allotment over the years, thanks to bonuses for well-executed applications.

On Monday, HUD said it will announce the results of the grant applications from cities and regions across the country . San Diego’s Continuum of Care, a countywide network of homelessness service providers, submitted its most recent application in January.

The continuum also asked for additional funding for a project to house 20 chronically homeless individuals and for organizing and planning the group’s meetings and operations.

Where Does the Money Go?

The money goes toward a few main purposes:

• Transitional housing: Programs at agencies like St. Vincent de Paul, Vietnam Veterans of San Diego and South Bay Community Services house homeless people and help them move toward independent, permanent housing. The programs vary in length but can be as long as two years.

• “Shelter Plus Care”: HUD provides funding to house or help pay rent for homeless individuals with serious mental illness and chronic substance abuse. Local agencies, like the County of San Diego, match that rental assistance with their own services provided with other funding.

• Rental assistance and some supportive services for a style of homeless service called “permanent supportive” housing, generally targeted to vulnerable or chronically homeless people. This program provides people with a package of both housing and supportive services, like the 83 units of permanent supportive housing that have opened this year at Connections Housing downtown . A little more than $5 million of the region’s application is earmarked for this program.

• Data tracking: The region wants to improve its Homelessness Management Information System and its ability to monitor and streamline resources. One goal would be to track what services someone has already received at Agency X across town before coming to Agency Y. Another would be to see where someone ends up after exiting a program. The Regional Task Force on the Homeless manages this system.

• Re-housing services for people who’ve recently become homeless: This program came to San Diego in 2009 as part of federal stimulus. The continuum’s other programs agreed this year to take a 3.5 percent cut out of their renewal amount to put about $500,000 toward this type of service.

How Does a Program Get Funded?

The mostly volunteer leaders of the Continuum of Care meet to discuss the ranking of projects the network wants HUD to fund. Local agencies submit their performance over the last year and the continuum leaders — including representatives from agencies and universities, like Pat Leslie, a social work professor at Point Loma Nazarene University — put together a ranked list of projects for the money that they submit to HUD.

What Gets Left Out?

The biggest piece of the homeless services spectrum the main Continuum of Care stream doesn’t flow to: emergency shelters. So the Cortez Hill family shelter and the winter tents that Alpha Project and Veterans Village San Diego operate have been funded primarily from HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant, separately allocated. Last year that was about $1 million for the city of San Diego.

That money can fund street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, “rapid re-housing” and additional funds for the data system.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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