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Homeless Services Glossary

Homeless services providers use specific terminology when talking about issues related to housing and homelessness. What follows is an list of terms accumulated based on glossaries from MDHA, the 100,000 Homes Campaign, and Building Changes.

Affordable Housing
Defined as paying 30% or less than an individual’s income for housing
Case Management Supportive Services
Supportive case management services are services or activities for the arrangement, coordination, monitoring, and delivery of services to meet the needs of individuals and families who experience homelessness. Component services and activities may include individual service plan development; counseling; monitoring, developing, securing, and coordinating services; monitoring and evaluating client progress; and assuring that clients' rights are protected.
Chronically Homeless Individual
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) adopted the federal definition which defines a chronically homeless person as either 1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR 2) an unaccompanied individuals with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. Families can now be considered chronically homeless.
Disabling condition is defined as “a diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions.” A disabling condition limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.
To be considered chronically homeless, persons must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter.
An episode is an event that is distinct and separate, although part of a larger series, occurring at usually irregular intervals.
A chronically homeless family is a household with at least one adult member who meets the definition of chronic homelessness.
Continuum of Care
An approach that helps communities plan for and provide a full range of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing and service resources to address the various needs of homeless persons.
Critical Time Intervention (CTI)
A time-limited case management model designed to prevent homelessness and other adverse outcomes in people with mental illness following discharge from hospitals, shelters, prisons, and other institutions.
Emergency shelter programs
These 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 are also included.
Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH)
The Act of 2009 that includes Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Continuum of Care (CoC) grants.
Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)
A computerized data collection application designed to capture client-level information over time on the characteristics and service needs of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness.  It is designed to aggregate client-level data to generate an unduplicated count of clients served within a community’s system of homeless services.  The HMIS can provide data on client characteristics and service utilization.  In Nashville, the HMIS is being developed by the Metro Public Health Department.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)
Formerly known as Section 8 Vouchers. Federally funded housing voucher for low-income individuals and families. Usually administered by a Housing Authority.
Housing First
The Housing First model was developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis of Pathways to Housing in the 1990s. The concept is simple: Offer a person housing first, then connect the housed person with supportive treatment services. This approach is called permanent supportive housing.
Over the past decade, multiple studies have shown that an immediate connection to permanent supportive housing helps ensure that more than 80% of formerly homeless individuals remain housed.
"The bottom line is that it is just too difficult to battle addiction, take care of serious physical and mental health conditions or find steady employment while simultaneously battling homelessness." - 100,000 Homes Campaign.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
A federal department whose mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH)
Central coordinating agency of the Federal government's efforts to prevent and end homelessness (includes links to the homelessness-related programs of the different Federal agencies)
McKinney-Vento Act
Major federal legislative response to homelessness that consists of fifteen programs providing a range of services to homeless people, including emergency shelter, transitional housing, job training, primary health care, education, and some permanent housing.
Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA)
Nashville’s public housing authority, primarily responsible for the city’s housing, urban and community development programs and other related programs.  Administers homeless-related programs such as HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants Program (ESGP), Supportive Housing Program (SHP), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).
Outreach and Engagement
Outreach services include extending services or help in order to develop a relationship of trust and engage homeless persons into treatment and service programs; to provide basic materials, such as meals, blankets, or clothes, to homeless persons; or to publicize the availability of various types of assistance such as emergency shelter or food programs that are available to individuals experiencing homelessness. Outreach services may take place in a variety of settings, including public places, meal programs, shelters, drop-in centers, or health care facilities. They are typically delivered to individuals who generally live on the streets or other unsheltered settings.
Permanent Supportive Housing
Safe, decent, affordable housing that provides the necessary support services to enable formerly homeless persons with special needs to live independently.
Permanent supportive housing options are designed to meet the specific needs of clients based on the client's level of functioning.
Shelter Plus Care
HUD provides grants for rental assistance to homeless persons with chronic disabilities under the Shelter Plus Care program. Eligible recipients are state and local government units, public housing agencies and Indian tribes. To receive the funds each recipient must provide supportive services at least equal in value to the rental assistance. Supportive services would address mental illness, substance abuse and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and related diseases.
Single room occupancy (SRO)
Single-room occupancy housing for homeless persons
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
A monthly benefit for people who are disabled
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
A monthly benefit program for people with little income and who are disabled
Transitional Shelter/Transitional Housing Programs
Temporary housing situations that offer opportunities and comprehensive services for up to 24 months in an effort to assist individuals or families who experience homelessness in obtaining a level of self-sufficiency. Residential facilities for providing drug and/or alcohol treatment or treatment and supportive services for persons with mental illness and/or dual diagnoses are included in this category if the population served is homeless.
Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH)
Combination of Section 8 rental assistance and individualized case management services for homeless veterans.
Wraparound services
This term refers to a comprehensive service provision model that guarantees that any and all services needed by an individual or family are integrated through a cohesive, individualized service plan that guides all service provision across all components of a homeless service delivery system – prevention, interim housing, and permanent housing.