Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve Delivery of Services in Rural Areas Page: 35 of 59
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vouchers exist. According to a rural service provider in Kentucky, the
tenant-based Section 8 voucher waiting list had 3,000 names on it.
The persons with whom we spoke also consistently said the size of service
areas and low population densities in rural areas presented obstacles to
service provision. The combination of expansive service areas and sparse
populations require many service providers to drive long distances to
serve their clients. For example, several rural service providers,
particularly case workers, described their vehicles as their offices because
of the amount of time they spent traveling between meetings with other
service providers and serving clients. Furthermore, according to HUD,
because funding is limited, many rural service providers cannot afford
large staffs and often wear many hats. In an urban area, separate staff or
separate agencies might be responsible for assessing different needs such
as housing, nutrition, education, job-search, mental and physical health,
and substance abuse needs. However, in a rural area, one individual may
be the client's primary point of contact and may have to consider the
whole range of issues. Furthermore, some rural areas do not have
broadband services and some providers we spoke with said that they are
excluded from some of the communications and resources available over
the Internet. For instance, HUD regional office officials acknowledged that
some rural service providers have been unable to connect to some of their
technical assistance workshops and learn about application preparation,
project administration, and management.
Local officials and service providers have cited other barriers such as
variability of local commitments and diminishing purchasing power. In
some of the states we visited, some service providers mentioned
variability in local and state commitment, which can influence the
homeless assistance programs. For example, 10 years ago Minnesota
invested in an intensive case management pilot program which provides
housing and supportive services to assist people with long histories of
homelessness. Because of the success of the pilot, the Minnesota
legislature has continued to appropriate funding to finance supportive
housing for five long-term homeless projects in areas that include
approximately 80 percent of Minnesota's population, according to a
service provider in Minnesota. In contrast, other communities have been
resistant to supporting homeless programs, such as one community
organization in Texas described that their local government resisted
acquiring additional funds in fear of attracting more homeless individuals
and families to the community. Diminishing purchasing power also affects
the ability of local service providers to address needs in their
communities. According to CoC participants, Maine receives PATH funds,
GAO-10-724 Rural Homelessness
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve Delivery of Services in Rural Areas, report, July 20, 2010; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301393/m1/35/: accessed May 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.