Local programs working to end homelessness across the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands were awarded $1.6 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week.

The grants were given to Continuum of Care (CoC) programs run by nonprofits as well as state and local governments.

These programs are “designed to assist individuals (including unaccompanied youth) and families experiencing homelessness and to provide the services needed to help such individuals move into transitional and permanent housing, with the goal of long-term stability,” HUD explains.

Funding is distributed annually through a competitive application process in which CoC programs submit funding requests to HUD.

Each application is scored on a 200-point scale based on how well the local CoC’s request fulfills a set of seven criteria, and funds are awarded based on program rankings.

This was “the most competitive environment HUD has experienced in the Continuum of Care grant program,” a HUD press release states, and many CoCs that received grants were faith-based organizations.

SAMM, an interfaith homeless ministry in San Antonio, Texas, founded by First Presbyterian Church, received more than $2.3 million for five CoC initiatives.

Other Texas faith-based CoCs receiving grants include: Hope House, The Salvation Army and Star of Hope Mission (established by a Baptist minister in 1907).

Covenant House (a CoC providing housing for homeless youth that was established by a Franciscan priest), Must Ministries and Union Mission were among the Georgia faith-based CoCs receiving HUD funding.

In North Carolina, Bridge to Recovery, Mary’s House and United Community Ministries received grant awards.

Aphesis House (which has offices on the campus of Baptist-affiliated Belmont University), Genesis Homeless Services, Interfaith Permanent Supportive Housing and The Next Door’s Freedom Recovery Program (a ministry established by First Baptist Church of Nashville and featured in EthicsDaily.com’s documentary, “Through the Door“) were among the Tennessee faith-based organizations receiving grants.

State-by-state information on the CoCs awarded grant money is available here.

This annual grant supports the ongoing work of Opening Doors, “the nation’s first-ever comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.”

The program was launched in 2010 and is overseen by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which represents 19 federal agencies and offices.

It is responsible for “organizing and supporting leaders such as governors, mayors, Continuum of Care leaders and other local officials” in their efforts to end homelessness.

“The federal government needs leadership and support from faith communities, businesses and philanthropy to inspire and energize Americans to commit to preventing and ending homelessness,” USICH emphasizes on its website.

HUD reported last November that since the program’s inception, U.S. homelessness has declined by 11 percent.

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