Journal of Housing & Community Development

Award of Excellence: Houston’s Homeless Mayor’s Challenge

December 16, 2019

The Houston Housing Authority wins a 2018 Award of Excellence in Resident and Client Services for their efforts to help house over 500 chronically homeless individuals in six months. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.    

Since 2012, Houston has seen its homeless population declined by nearly 60 percent, giving it one of the lowest rates of homelessness among major cities in the United States. The city has been making progress with two groups that have traditionally been among the hardest to serve: the chronically homeless and homeless veterans.  

In March of 2017, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a challenge to the city’s homeless and housing providers to develop a comprehensive and holistic approach to reduce homelessness by housing 500 chronically homeless individuals in six months.  

The Houston Housing Authority (HHA) served as the financial intermediary for a $2.4 million HOME TBRA award from the city to fund Houston’s efforts to house the homeless. These funds were used to bridge the gap during a federal funding freeze and to continue to provide rental assistance to their most vulnerable customers.  Even after facing tremendous obstacles such as the historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey and a federal funding freeze on vouchers, the HHA and more than two dozen homeless service organizations moved 548 chronically homeless individuals into permanent supportive housing within six months. 

With funding secured, HHA and other participants in the mayor’s housing challenge continue to work collaboratively towards three goals:  

  • Create a system to identify the chronically homeless and match them to appropriate affordable housing options;  
  • Coordinate a service system to support long-term housing stabilization; and  
  • Create enough permanent housing to meet demand.  

An HHA staff member notes that the housing authority and its partners will not “settle for a quick fix” but are “committed to creating a smart and durable infrastructure to address underlying challenges that cause and perpetuate this complex social problem.” 

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