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HHS/HUD Joint Guidance on Preventing & Ending Homelessness

Dear Colleague Letter

Published: June 17, 2010
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Dear Colleague

Department of Health and Human Services

United States
Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

United States
Department of Housing and Urban Development


June 17, 2010


Dear Colleague:

During this economic recession, families with young children have been severely affected.  As parents have lost jobs or faced other economic challenges, many families are falling behind on rent or mortgage payments and are at imminent risk of becoming homeless.  Many households are confronted by eviction from their apartment or foreclosure on their home, while others have already fallen into homelessness but may be able to move toward stability with immediate assistance.  There are two significant resources funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), which are available to help communities address these urgent situations: the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  We want to make sure that you are aware of the ways that communities can use these two programs together to work to prevent and end homelessness in their local areas.

Eligible Activities

First, States and Tribes have the discretion to use Federal TANF and State Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funds to assist families in need of housing services consistent with TANF rules on providing benefits and services to needy or eligible families.  Along with providing basic assistance, a TANF program can provide an array of non-recurrent, short-term benefits and services to help families that are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.  For example, a jurisdiction can use TANF funds to provide short-term rental or mortgage assistance, security and utility payments, moving assistance, motel and hotel vouchers, subsidized employment, case management services, legal services, housing search and placement services and administrative costs associated with any of these activities.  To qualify as non-recurrent, short-term benefits, these services cannot extend beyond 4 months and must be designed to address a specific crisis situation and not be intended to meet ongoing needs. In addition, a State may also choose to provide TANF benefits in other categories to these families.

In jurisdictions that still have funds available to them under the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund enacted by the Recovery Act, increased expenditures for basic assistance and non-recurrent short-term benefits (as well as subsidized employment) may qualify for Federal reimbursement of 80 percent of increased costs.  Still, in all jurisdictions, the above expenditures can be permissible uses of TANF and MOE funds.

HPRP provides funds to cities, counties and States to prevent homelessness for individuals and families who are at-risk of becoming homeless, and to help those experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized.  HPRP can be used to provide short- and medium-term rental assistance, security and utility deposits, utility payments, moving cost assistance, and limited hotel and motel vouchers, as well as a number of services to help households stabilize their housing situation, including case management, outreach to potential program participants and landlords, housing search and placement, and landlord-tenant mediation. 

Coordination of Resources

Where possible, we strongly encourage State TANF agencies to work together with HPRP programs to maximize the benefit and efficiency of both resources to serve families.  For example, TANF agencies can extend their impact by referring families that require more than four months of rental assistance to HPRP programs that administer medium-term rental assistance.  Also, families that receive TANF rental assistance can be referred to HPRP programs for help with searching for housing, mediation with their landlord, or related case management services.  To identify key HPRP decision-makers, a list of HPRP programs by State can be found at: http://www.hudhre.info/.

When planning service provision at the local level, communities should consider the best way to target and coordinate TANF and HPRP resources for the most efficient and effective distribution.  State and local strategies could include:

  • Coordinated Entry – If possible, create a center where low-income families can have “one stop” access to a range of services.  Co-locating services can promote collaboration between TANF and HPRP resources.
  • Use of 211 Outreach Phone Line – Many communities have a widely publicized 211 phone line for services.  In some communities, this is the first step in referring clients to the services they need.  Training the 211 outreach staff on the uses of TANF and HPRP is a good way of providing information about both programs to the public.
  • Tailored Services – Agencies that deliver services should have an initial visit with a case manager (this is required for HPRP) to determine that families receive housing assistance at an appropriate level and duration.  This can be used as an opportunity to coordinate TANF and HPRP resources in creative ways to help families avoid homelessness.
  • Staff Training – Staff delivering services should be trained on TANF and HPRP eligibility requirements and enrollment procedures so they can refer clients to appropriate services and better assist families.

Creating ways for these programs to work together in your community can be a challenge but can ultimately result in efficiencies in using these additional resources available to prevent and end homelessness for families.

If you have any questions about the TANF program, please contact the TANF Program Manager in your Region.  For the HPRP program, please contact your local HUD field office or submit questions to the HUD Virtual Help Desk at http://www.hudhre.info/  . Thank you.





Carmen R. Nazario
Assistant Secretary for Children and Families


Mercedes Márquez
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development