CalWORKs Homeless Assistance shared housing

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided questions and answers regarding CalWORKs Homeless Assistance shared housing.  Effective January 1, 2020, CalWORKs families may use homeless assistance payments to rent from any person or establishment with whom they have a valid lease, sublease or shared housing agreement.

For temporary homeless assistance, a lease is not necessary and any form of documentation showing the address, dates of stay, rent, and contact information of the provider is acceptable.  For permanent homeless assistance, the agreement must show the rent the CalWORKs family is paying to determine if the rent exceeds 80% of total monthly income.

For a long-term sublease or shared housing agreement for permanent homeless assistance, there should be documentation that the family is legally allowed to reside in the property, and that the sublease or shared housing agreement does not violate the original lease.  For short-term housing agreements for temporary homeless assistance, counties need to confirm that allowing a short term guest does not violate the terms of the original lease.  A statement from the tenant providing the housing is sufficient.

If the county cannot verify that there is a valid rental agreement, the county can contact the landlord with permission of the CalWORKs family.  This contact can be done by phone.  If contact cannot be made, a sworn statement from the client is sufficient.

There are no homeless assistance regulations regarding the maximum number of people per room.  There are also no requirements for the county to do a habitability check on the property prior to approving homeless assistance.

For temporary homeless assistance, the shared housing agreement is sufficient verification that the benefits were spent on shelter.  If counties want additional verification, a statement from the housing provider or a sworn statement from the client is adequate.

Temporary homeless assistance is a set amount, and the family is entitled to that amount even if their shelter cost is less than that amount.

Counties must comply with the assistance unit’s request to issue homeless assistance to the assistance unit or to the provider unless there is a finding of mismanagement of funds.

Families are not required to use their 16 nights of temporary homeless assistance in the same location.

Permanent homeless assistance can be used to pay security deposits.  This includes payment of the client’s share of an existing security deposit that is paid to the housing provider.

Temporary homeless assistance cannot be replaced when a housing provider breaks an agreement to provide housing.

There is no requirement that providers have a tax ID number.  If it is not possible to issue a vendor payment, counties should issue homeless assistance directly to families despite a mismanagement finding because they are entitled to the benefits.

Clients not providing receipts verifying that homeless assistance funds were spent on housing is not a basis for assessing an overpayment.  Not providing receipts is a basis for a finding of mismanagement of funds and subsequent benefits being issued by vendor payments.  The only time homeless assistance can be an overpayment is when the family was not eligible for the benefits when they received them.

The allowance of shared housing in homeless assistance does not change CalWORKs or CalFresh rules regarding how to treat rental payments when families are sharing housing.

(ACIN I-52-20, June 30, 2020, and ACIN I-52-20E, December 15, 2020.)