A program was defined for NSHAPC as a set of services offered to the same group of clients at a single location. To be considered a program, a provider had to offer services or assistance that were (1) managed or administered by the agency (i.e., the agency provides the staff and funding); (2) designed to accomplish a particular mission or goal; (3) offered on an ongoing basis; (4) focused on homeless clients as an intended population (although not always the only population); and (5) not limited to referrals or administrative functions.
This definition of "program" was used in metropolitan areas. However, because rural areas often lack homeless-specific services, the definition was expanded in rural areas to include agencies serving some homeless clients even if this was not a focus of the agency. About one-fourth of the rural programs in NSHAPC were included as a result of this expanded definition.
NSHAPC covered 16 types of homeless assistance programs, defined as follows: Emergency shelter programs provide short-term housing on a first-come, first-served basis where clients must leave in the morning and have no guaranteed bed for the next night OR provide beds for a specified period of time, regardless of whether or not clients leave the building. Facilities that provide temporary shelter during extremely cold weather (such as churches) and emergency shelters or host homes for victims of domestic violence and runaway or neglected children and youth were also included.
Transitional housing programs have a maximum stay for clients of two years and offer support services to promote self-sufficiency and to help them obtain permanent housing. They may target any homeless subpopulation, such as persons with mental illnesses, persons with AIDS, runaway youths, victims of domestic violence, homeless veterans, etc.
Permanent housing programs for formerly homeless clients provide long-term housing assistance with support services for which homelessness is a primary requirement for program eligibility. Examples include the Shelter Plus Care Program, the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program for Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) Dwellings, and the Permanent Housing for the Handicapped Homeless Program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These programs also include specific set-asides of assisted housing units or housing vouchers for homeless clients by public housing agencies or others as a matter of policy, or in connection with a specific program (e.g., the HUD-VA Supported Housing Program, "HUD-VASH"). A permanent housing program for formerly homeless clients does NOT include public housing, Section 8, or federal, state, or local housing assistance programs for low-income persons that do not include a specific set-aside for homeless clients, or for which homelessness is not a basic eligibility requirement.
Voucher distribution programs provide homeless persons with a voucher, certificate, or coupon that can be redeemed to pay for a specific amount of time in a hotel, motel, or other similar facility.
Programs accepting vouchers provide homeless persons with temporary accommodation in a hotel, motel, board and care home, or other similar facility in exchange for a voucher, certificate, or coupon.
Food pantry programs are programs that distribute uncooked food in boxes or bags directly to low-income clients, including homeless clients.
Soup kitchen programs include soup kitchens, food lines, and programs distributing prepared breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. These programs may be organized as food service lines, bag or box lunches, or tables where clients are seated, then served by program personnel. These programs may or may not have a place for individuals to sit and eat meals.
Mobile food programs are programs that visit designated street locations for the primary purpose of providing food to homeless clients.
Physical health care programs provide health care to homeless clients, including health screenings, immunizations, treatment for acute health problems, and other services that address physical health issues. Services are often provided in shelters, soup kitchens, or other locations frequented by homeless clients.
Mental health care programs provide services for homeless clients to improve their mental or psychological health or their ability to function well on a day-to-day basis. Specific services may include case management, assertive community treatment, intervention or hospitalization during a moment of crisis, counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatric services, and psychiatric medication monitoring.
Alcohol/drug programs provide services to assist homeless clients to reduce their levels of alcohol or other drug addiction, or to prevent substance abuse among homeless clients. Programs may include detoxification services, sobering facilities, rehabilitation programs, counseling, treatment, and prevention and education services.
HIV/AIDS programs provide services for homeless clients that specifically respond to the fact that clients have HIV/AIDS, or are at risk of getting HIV/AIDS. Services may include health assessment, client day care, nutritional services, medications, intensive medical care when required, health, mental health, and substance abuse services, referral to other benefits and services, and HIV/AIDS prevention and education services.
Drop-in center programs provide daytime services primarily for homeless clients, such as television, laundry facilities, showers, support groups, and service referrals, but do not provide overnight accommodations.
Outreach programs contact homeless clients to offer food, blankets, or other necessities in such settings as on the streets, in subways, under bridges, and in parks to assess needs and attempt to engage them in services; to offer medical, mental health, and/or substance abuse services; and/or to offer other assistance on a regular basis (at least once a week) for the purpose of improving their health, mental health, or social functioning, or increasing their use of human services and resources. Services may be provided during the day or at night.
Migrant housing is housing that is seasonally occupied by migrating farm workers. During off-season periods it may be vacant and available for use by homeless persons.
Other programs are programs described and offered by providers that met the basic NSHAPC definition of a homeless assistance program. Types of programs actually identified through the survey include housing/ financial assistance (e.g., from Community Action, county welfare, or housing agencies); Emergency Food and Shelter Program agencies; job training for the homeless; clothing distribution; and other programs.