CalWORKs Housing Support Program funding and rules changes

The CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP) is intended to foster housing stability for families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in the CalWORKs program.  All CalWORKs recipient families are eligible for the HSP.  HSP eligibility now includes families in CalWORKs who are at-risk of homelessness including recipients who have not yet received an eviction notice, and for whom housing instability would be a barrier to self-sufficiency or child well-being.

In general, homeless for purposes of HSP means either 1) an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, 2) An individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, 3) Any individual or family who is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions that relate to violence against the individual or a family member, has no other housing and lacks resources to obtain other housing.

For the purposes of HSP, a person is defined as at-risk of homelessness when they are experiencing housing instability, including recipients who have not yet received an eviction notice, and for whom housing instability would be a barrier to self-sufficiency or child well-being; have no subsequent permanent residence secured; and lack resources to secure subsequent permanent housing.  Families must be allowed to self-attest that they are at-risk of homelessness.

HSP provides rapid rehousing service, which includes housing identification, rent and move-in assistance, and case management.  HSP can also provide homelessness prevention assistance, which includes payment rent or utility arrears, late fee payments, first month rent and/or security deposit, landlord mediation, repairs, habitability/accessibility improvements, and housing navigation.  Counties are encouraged to limit their spending on homelessness prevention assistance to no more than 30 percent of their HSP allocation.

HSP must operate in accordance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Housing First principles.  This means that individuals should be connected to housing or housing support without preconditions, services must be voluntary, client choice must be respected, and client cannot be rejected on the basis of income, past evictions, substance abuse, or any other behavior that might indicate a lack of housing readiness.

HSP should assist participants who are behind in rent with accessing ERAP funds before using Home Safe funds to pay back rent.  This is not requirement for Home Safe eligibility, but is a requirement to use ERAP funds before Home Safe funds for rental assistance.  If ERAP rent relief would not prevent a loss of housing and the family is eligible for HSP, then HSP funds can be utilized to keep the family housed, including by covering arrears to prevent a loss of housing.  (ACWDL, December 13, 2021.)