Where to Start for Resources for City Leaders Addressing Homelessness


  • Natasha Leonard
  • Lauren Lowery
February 16, 2023 - (6 min read)

Cities and city leaders have long been at the frontlines of addressing homelessness. As difficult as the challenge can often seem, homelessness is not inescapable. From Bakersfield/Kern County, CA to Chattanooga, TN, communities have shown that it’s possible to build and refine systems that ensure the experience of homelessness is rare and brief.

The critical work of ensuring safe and stable housing for all residents is certainly not easy. Provider networks are often complex and local leaders are tasked with balancing competing priorities and limited resources. But now more than ever, resources and strategic frameworks are in place to bolster local efforts to meaningfully drive sustainable improvements and build toward the goal of reducing homelessness nationally by 25 percent by 2025.

With this national mobilization comes a new challenge: identifying the best path forward and the best approaches that fit the needs of a given population experiencing homelessness. From the suite of publications, tools and opportunities available to local leaders, the list below reflects resources and tools from both the federal government and National League of Cities that are well-suited for communities revisiting their approach or launching a new campaign to address homelessness at the local level.

Federal Resources and Guidance

All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

This plan from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) serves as a roadmap for federal action but can be used by local governments to develop local and systems-level plans for preventing and ending homelessness. It centers around three foundations — equity, data and evidence, and collaboration — and three solutions — housing and supports, crisis response, and prevention.

  • Use this to: Find alignment with federal strategies and identify targeted and non-targeted federal support and grant programs.
Resource Roundup for Addressing Encampments

This compilation of resources can help cities implement USICH’s 7 Principles for Addressing Encampments. It includes guidance on how to establish cross-agency responses, engage individuals with lived experience, conduct outreach, develop pathways to permanent housing, and more.

  • Use this to: Identify resources and best practices for establishing an effective and compassionate strategy to address encampments.
Announcement of HUD Grants to Address Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the first set of communities to receive grants and vouchers earmarked for addressing unsheltered homelessness and homelessness in rural communities. A full list of grant awards can be found here.

  • Use this to: Determine whether your community, or neighboring communities, is receiving dedicated funds and to find possible alignment.
HOME-ARP Allocations

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides $5 billion to assist individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The 651 State and local participating jurisdictions that qualified for an annual HOME Program allocation for FY 2021 were eligible to receive HOME-ARP grants and allocations were announced in April 2021.

  • Use this to: Find program specifications, policy guidance and trainings on program implementation and expending the funds.
Housing and Services Resource Center

This online hub was created specifically for people who work in systems that provide housing resources and homelessness services, behavioral and mental health services, independent living services and other supportive services. The initiative seeks to foster cross-sector partnerships and it brings together a wide variety of resources related to housing and supportive services.

  • Use this to: Learn about how to develop and expand partnerships, find relevant tools, and discover new models and strategies.
USICH Tools for Action

The USICH database is regularly updated with resources to help communities address homelessness. Tools range from best practices for client-informed data collection to examples of unit acquisition strategies.

  • Use this to: Identify additional resources relevant to specific topics, priorities and strategies for addressing homelessness.

NLC Resources

Federal Funding Sources for Addressing Homelessness Tool

This tool offers a searchable list of federal grant programs designated for homelessness support, intervention or prevention, and those that are particularly relevant to support for people at high risk of experiencing homelessness. Users can search, filter and sort by federal department, eligible uses, target populations and more in order to learn about the available funding opportunities.

  • Use this to: Identify federal funding sources relevant to a given community or to meet a specific need.
An Overview of the Housing First Approach

This brief provides an overview of Housing First approach to addressing homelessness, which is central to many federal strategies. It explores the evidence around the approach and spotlights how communities have used it to address homelessness effectively, equitably and compassionately.

  • Use this to: Learn about the Housing First approach, explore the distinctions between it and other models, and get connected to additional implementation resources.
An Overview of Homeless Encampments

This resource provides local leaders with a basic understanding of the complex network of factors that lead individuals to live in encampments, and it offers recommendations for responding to the growing prevalence of homeless encampments.

  • Use this to: Learn about encampments, understand the impacts of different policy approaches, and explore alternatives to encampment sweeps.
An Overview of Homelessness for City Leaders

The brief overview provides foundational information about the scope of homelessness in America, the determinants of homelessness, and its impact on communities.

  • Use this to: Get up to speed on the basics of homelessness and learn more about the available data.  
Unlocking Homelessness, Part 1

This report offers a closer look at the demographic groups and subpopulations that are more likely to experience homelessness, identifies many of the driving factors of homelessness, and details the common pathways that can lead someone to experience homelessness.

  • Use this to: Take a deeper dive into who often experiences homelessness and why in order to inform the development and refinement of local strategies.
Housing for Individuals Experiencing Chronic and Unsheltered Homelessness

Individuals experiencing chronic and unsheltered homelessness often face complex and compounding barriers to accessing stable housing. This blog documents those barriers and identifies local examples of approaches that cities are taking to reduce the number of people experiencing chronic and unsheltered homeless specifically.

  • Use this to: Gain a better understanding of chronic and unsheltered homelessness and learn about the strategies and concrete steps cities are taking to better support individuals in finding and maintaining stable housing.   
Addressing the Intersections of Youth Criminalization and Housing Instability

Many of the millions of youths and young adults who experience homelessness each year in the U.S. also have encounters with the criminal legal system. This blog highlights efforts and local approaches to address that intersection and offers direction to additional resources.

  • Use this to: Explore local examples from cities and learn about efforts seeking to address the intersections of youth legal system involvement and homelessness.  

As cities rise to meet this moment by substantially, effectively and compassionately addressing homelessness, the resources listed here can serve as both a foundation and a stepping stone.

Join the Housing Supply Accelerator

For many cities, the pressing need for expanding housing supply is central to addressing and preventing homelessness in the long-term. Learn about a new effort to realign stakeholders and advance solutions that accelerate and incentivize local approaches to land use, housing development and preservation.

About the Authors

Natasha Leonard

About the Authors

Natasha Leonard is a Program Manager for Housing & Community Development at the National League of Cities.

Lauren Lowery

Lauren Lowery is the Director of Housing & Community Development at the National League of Cities.