Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home

by Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home

For years Curtis tried to manage life with a chronic mental health illness but struggled without adequate support or treatment. He began to self-medicate in search of peace but sadly, instead of finding peace, Curtis’ search lead him down a path of addiction, desperation and, eventually, incarceration. After serving his time, Curtis was released with a second chance, but it wasn’t easy still trying to manage an untreated mental health issue with uncertainty of where to turn for help.

By the time the Coalition connected with Curtis, he had been living on the streets for nearly 20 years. He understandably met our outreach team with a dose of skepticism. However, they got to know Curtis, took the time to understand his needs, and began implementing a plan to help him succeed. 

Just as our outreach team continued showing up for Curtis, Curtis kept showing up and putting in the work for himself. And then, two decades of instability came to an end when he moved into housing. It didn’t take him long to begin accomplishing his goals — goals that had once seemed unreachable.When asked what it meant to have a home for the holidays, with a smile that lit up his living room, Curtis responded,

“It’s one of the most beautiful feelings in the world. Especially coming from a tent to owning something on my own... I'm finally back home.”

Curtis’ journey has been neither brief nor easy, but his new beginning, his success story was possible because of your support. More than 12,000 individuals and families now have a home thanks to you. We appreciate you being a part of someone’s success story and for giving the greatest gift of all: HOPE. We can’t wait to see how many stories like that of Curtis’ we can change together in 2023!

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Program Progress

During Phase 1 of the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP), we achieved our goal of providing services to 5,000 people less than a year ahead of schedule. Due to our success, the CCHP goal was extended to serve an additional 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. William was one of the 11,113 people we’ve served as of October 17, 2022.

William’s Story

I met William in 2015 when I was doing street outreach. Or, more accurately, I first met Charlie Brown, William's dog and best friend who is always by his side. William was hesitant to talk to me at first because Charlie Brown didn't seem to like me. But I kept checking on them, and over time I earned Charlie Brown's — and William's — trust.

William had fallen into homelessness after being diagnosed with leukemia. He hadn't wanted to burden his wife, so he moved out of their home and had been living on the streets for about five years before I met him. Over the years, William made several attempts to get into housing, but he kept running into the same barrier: he wanted to get housed, but not if he couldn't take Charlie Brown with him.

That changed with the Coalition leading the opening of the temporary housing navigation center last year. The Navigation Center is a short-term, low-barrier place where people experiencing street homelessness can stay while waiting for their permanent housing placement. The good news is that low-barrier meant that Charlie Brown was welcomed, and after a few months, William and Charlie Brown moved into their own apartment!

I can't tell you how hard it has been over the years, having people refuse housing because they couldn't bring their pets with them. The Navigation Center has changed that. We had a temporary housing navigation center off 290, and the City of Houston is about to open a more permanent navigation center in the Fifth Ward.

I can say with confidence that William — and so many others like him — would not have been housed and would still be on the streets today if not for the leadership of the Coalition and their development of programs to address barriers for families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Your support has made serving over 11,000 people, like William, during the short span of two years possible. Thank you for playing a vital role in helping the Coalition coordinate with the many partners it takes to make this dream a reality!

-Jessalyn Dimanno, Manager of Outreach, Coalition for the Homeless

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Emily grew up in a stable, upper-middle class family. Her dad worked for IBM for 36 years and her mom stayed home. Emily recalls that she “never had to take the bus to school.” After high school Emily met a man and quickly found herself in a severely abusive relationship where she suffered significant trauma that changed the course of her life and was the catalyst to finding escape through addiction.


Emily attempted to leave her partner many times, but always returned to avoid experiencing homelessness, until she became pregnant. Emily had wanted to be a mom more than anything, so she made the decision to leave, get clean, and joined a substance abuse rehabilitation program. However, Emily wasn’t able to get the help that she needed. Feeling hopeless, Emily made the gut-wrenching decision to place her 9-month-old up for adoption, so that her son could thrive. This sacrifice and loss drove her deeper into addiction, and she ended up on the streets… which is where Emily met Adam. 


Emily and Adam both felt like they had reached rock bottom, tired of using, and tired of staying up for days on end because living on the streets was so scary. They were on the brink of giving up when the Coalition’s outreach team, led by Eric, arrived. Eric let Emily and Adam know that the Coalition would be decommissioning their encampment in a couple weeks, and should they want it, there would a safe place for them at a temporary navigation center until they could move into permanent housing with supportive services. Neither Emily nor Adam believed what Eric had promised, until he pulled up in the outreach van two weeks later and asked if they were ready to go!


Emily and Adam moved into the temporary Navigation Center in January and have been sober since. They have been approved for housing and are just waiting on the inspection. Emily has enrolled in EMT classes, and Adam aspires to work on a homeless outreach team, decommissioning encampments like the one where he and Emily lived. Adam wants to offer hope and encouragement to others, that they too can get clean, and that there are organizations that they can place their trust in, providing safe homes to those who have found themselves lost. Next month Emily’s baby is turning 3 years old, and thanks to the support of the Coalition and her son’s adopted family, she will be at the birthday party to celebrate his beautiful life.


The Coalition for the Homeless leads the work to create positive outcomes like Emily’s, and our ability to do so is made possible by individuals like you who support the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP)! Your donations have allowed the Coalition and our more than 100 partners to provide hope, second chances, and moments that have altered the trajectory of more than 25,000 lives since 2012!

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Officials from the City of Houston, Harris County, and the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless on Wednesday announced a $100 million initiative to house 7,000 more people experiencing homelessness and to make critical enhancements that will bring the region closer to ending homelessness. Federal COVID relief funding will be used for the second phase of the Community COVID Housing Program. The housing initiative has already housed a record number of people experiencing homelessness — more than 7,000 people since Oct. 2020.

Multimedia: click here to watch a recording of the press event.

 At the announcement, the City and the County also officially signed on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)’s national House America Initiative.

“In Phase 1, we not only met our goal, but we also beat it and did so in record time,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are not resting on our laurels, together, we will do more, and we must keep the momentum going. Therefore, Houston and Harris County are doubling down and once again partnering with the Coalition for the Homeless and fellow agencies to launch the largest and most ambitious homeless initiative in the history of the City and County. Together, we can strategically utilize COVID-19 related funding to turn the crisis of the pandemic into an opportunity to reduce homelessness further and save lives.”

 “By pulling together in the same direction, Harris County and Houston are showing the rest of America how to get within striking distance of solving an intractable issue like homelessness,” said County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Our rapid deployment of creative, effective programs is changing countless lives for the better. This is how we make our community stronger, more resilient, and prosperous for everyone.” 

“After a lifetime of working in public safety, I have focused on keeping our entire community safe for decades,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “We chose to partner again with the City of Houston and the Coalition for the Homeless on the Community COVID Housing Program because housing the homeless not only protects the homeless, it protects the broader community.”

“Everyone deserves access to a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home. Access to housing and shelter is a fundamental human right, yet we often treat housing as a commodity,” said Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “We have an opportunity to end chronic homelessness in our community. That’s why I am excited to support ongoing funding with the City of Houston and proud that the County will continue to invest in our homelessness system through the Community COVID Housing Program.”

“Although Houston and Harris County just joined the 60+ communities part of House America, they’ve been following the spirit of the initiative,” said Anthony Love, Interim Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). “They used federal funding for the COVID homeless housing program to set goals and break new records. They permanently rehoused 5,000 people – a year before they expected. The House America community can learn from Houston and Harris County.”

“The Way Home, the local homeless response system, continues to prove out how collaboration among governments, nonprofits, and philanthropy can provide long-term fiscally and morally responsible solutions to homelessness,” said Michael Nichols, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.

Funding for Phase 2 of housing-focused pandemic response

First announced in July 2020, the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP) is a housing-focused response to the pandemic for people experiencing homelessness. Led by the Coalition and implemented by about a dozen homeless service provider agencies, the CCHP pioneered the use of housing as a pandemic response. It has become a model for other cities and counties across the country looking to use federal funding for maximum impact for people experiencing homelessness.

Harris County intends to invest $35 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in Phase 2 of the CCHP, with $29.5 million committed by Commissioners Court this week on top of $5.5 million previously approved. The City of Houston plans allocate at least $35 million — including funds approved by City Council today for a $6.2 million housing navigation center — and helped secure $26 million from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The Coalition will raise additional funding for Phase 2 from private philanthropy, making it a public-private partnership.

Partnership with national initiative

On Wednesday, the City and the County officially signed on to the House America Initiative. House America is a national partnership in which HUD and USICH invite local leaders to “use the historic investments provided through ARP to address the crisis of homelessness through a Housing First approach by immediately re-housing and building additional housing for people experiencing homelessness,” according to a release from USICH. This aligns with the approach that the City, County, Coalition, and community partners have been implementing successfully for over a year.

Success of Phase 1 of the Community COVID Housing Program

Through the first phase of the CCHP, the partners of The Way Home — the local homeless response system — have been able to accelerate their work and have housed more than 7,000 people experiencing homelessness — or on the verge of homelessness — since October 2020. The number of people permanently housed through the CCHP exceeds the number of people housed in the two previous years combined.

The initial goal of Phase 1 the housing initiative was to house 5,000 people over two years. Since the official start of the CCHP in October 2020:

  • More than 1,080 people experiencing chronic (long-term) homelessness have been housed in Permanent Supportive Housing,
  • More than 3,180 people have been housed via Rapid Rehousing (short-term rental assistance and light case management services),
  • And more than 2,780 people have been prevented from falling into homelessness via Diversion.
  • For a total of more than 7,000 people housed Oct. 1, 2020, to Jan. 11, 2022.


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Encampments aren’t safe or healthy places — least of all for the people living in them.

The Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP) is our region’s $65-million plan to serve 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the next two years to limit the spread of COVID-19. This program has given the Coalition the additional resources to develop and implement a coordinated plan to address unsheltered homelessness by helping people living encampments move into permanent housing.
Working with several partners of The Way Home and local law enforcement, the Coalition’s outreach and project management teams have been able to draw on years of knowledge regarding what does — and doesn’t — work to house people living in encampments.
Over the past year, the Coalition and its partners have been able to decommission six different encampments throughout the City of Houston and Harris County. Contrary to a common misconception, people in encampments will, more often than not, accept permanent housing when it is offered to them. The proof: over 200 people were living in these encampments, and the majority of them are now residing in permanent housing! 
The Coalition’s staff has played a key leadership role on this encampment initiative. Decommissioning encampments is a community response that uses a system strategy of coordination across multiple partners and jurisdictions. The Coalition has convened public and elected officials and secured access to system resources to ensure that the tools are available to quickly move people out of encampments and into permanent housing. 
This work caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which commissioned a consultant to work with the Coalition’s staff to study our process for addressing encampments and create a “how-to” guide for other cities to follow our example. We are proud to be leading this innovative work that has propelled Houston back into the national spotlight on creative and effective ways to address homelessness. Click here to read the guide. 


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Organization Information

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County

Location: Houston, TX - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @homelessHOU
Project Leader:
Renee Cavazos
Houston , TX United States
$4,532 raised of $1,000,000 goal
57 donations
$995,468 to go
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