Homeless Programs

This section of the website is designed to provide information about housing, services, and funding sources for homeless individuals and families.


There are three basic types of homeless housing – emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing.

  • Emergency Shelter

Any facility with overnight sleeping accommodations, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of homeless persons (e.g. victims of domestic violence, single men/women, youth, etc.).  The length of stay can range from one night up to as much as 90 days, or some other standard set within the community.  Shelter may be placement in a shelter facility, overnight church-based program or motel.

  • Transitional/Bridge Housing

Transitional housing is supportive housing that facilitates the movement of homeless individuals and/or families to permanent housing within 24 months. Supportive services may be provided by the applicant or by a collaborating agency.  Transitional Housing programs are eligible for funding through the HUD-McKinney program (more information about HUD McKinney funding is below).

  • Safe Haven Model

Safe Haven is a form of (transitional or permanent) supportive housing that serves hard to reach homeless persons who have severe mental illness, provides 24-hour residence for an unspecified duration, provides private or semi-private accommodations and has overnight occupancy limited to 25 persons.  This type of housing is commonly referred to as “low-demand” as individuals with addictions come directly from the street and are not required to stay clean and sober, participate in treatment programs.

  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

Permanent Supportive Housing is housing combined with supportive services to enable homeless individuals and families with disabilities to live as independently as possible in a permanent setting.

  • Shelter Plus Care (S+C)

Shelter Plus Care (S+C) is a permanent housing program provides rental subsidies for homeless persons with disabilities; supportive services are also provided.

  • Single Room Occupancy (SRO)

Single Room Occupancy (SRO) is permanent housing for homeless individuals, with or without a disability.  This housing typically is designed as a single room, with bath and cooking facilities provided privately or through shared facilities.


Services are provided to persons who are homeless by the housing provider, or a third party. In some PA counties, funding for services is also covered under the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) grant, which supports service delivery to individuals with serious mental illness, as well as individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

OMHSAS contracts directly with the 19 county MH/MR program offices to provide PATH services.  Many of these offices, which encompass 28 of the state’s 67 counties, sub-contract with local community providers to provide PATH services.  In order to ensure program stability, once a county establishes a PATH program, or adds PATH funded services to an existing program through a competitive process, funding continues year to year as long as they comply with all the requirements.  New counties and programs are awarded PATH funding through a competitive process if and when the state receives an increase in federal funding.

Funding Sources

These programs may be funded through a variety of funding sources, including Pennsylvania’s Homeless Assistance Program (HAP), Emergency Shelter Grant funds (ESG), HUD McKinney-Vento funds, and more.

  • Homeless Assistance Program (HAP)

HAP is a program of the PA Department of Public Welfare that provides each county with funding in order to provide case management, rental assistance, bridge housing, emergency shelter and innovative supportive housing services.  HAP funds are provided to assure: 1) homelessness can be avoided through a variety of prevention services assisting clients to maintain affordable housing; 2) people who are homeless can find refuge and care; and 3) homeless and near homeless clients are assisted in moving toward self-sufficiency. Click here for more information about the HAP program.

  • Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) Funds

ESG are funds from HUD that provide homeless persons with basic shelter and essential supportive services. These funds can assist with the operational costs of running a shelter or transitional housing program, and for the administration of the grant. ESG also provides short-term homeless prevention assistance to persons at imminent risk of losing their own housing due to eviction, foreclosure, or utility shutoffs.  ESG funds are provided by HUD directly to entitlement regions and to the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for non-entitlement regions.  Click here for more information about DCED’s Emergency Shelter Grant program.

  • McKinney-Vento Continuum of Care

In 1987 Congress passed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act to provide funds to states, local governments and non-profit organizations to address the housing and service needs of homeless families and individuals. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It provides funding for supportive services, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing for homeless families and individuals. There is an annual competitive application process for these funds.  To click here to find the Continuum of Care in your community.

  • Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing (HPRP)

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HUD funded the three Year HPRP Program to provide resources to prevent homelessness and help those who are homeless to regain housing as quickly as possible.  The program includes both short term rental assistance and case management, legal and counseling services targeted to people obtaining housing.  It is anticipated that elements of HPRP will be part of the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) component of the soon to be initiated HEARTH Act which will replace the current McKinney funded programs.  For more information about the HEARTH Act and upcoming changes for McKinney funding, visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

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