What Is Shelter Plus Care?

Prior to 2012, Shelter Plus Care was the name HUD gave to one specific funding source established by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 and associated regulations. As of July 2012, under the HEARTH Act and its regulations, Shelter Plus Care ceased to exist by that name and became part of a larger single source of funds called the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. “Shelter Plus Care” continues to be DMH’s name for its permanent housing programs funded by HUD’s CoC Program.

Shelter Plus Care (SPC) provides permanent housing through rental assistance for people who are both homeless and disabled. The goal of SPC is to create long-term housing stability, a return to self-sufficiency, and reintegration with community. People in need of assistance are referred to DMH through a Continuum of Care's coordinated entry process (see the section below on accessing Shelter Plus Care through Coordinated Entry for more information).

Individuals and families receiving SPC assistance sign their own lease with a landlord and pay 30% of their income toward their rent. SPC funds, administered by local community housing agencies, pay the balance of the rent. If a household has zero income, SPC funds pay 100% of the rent. SPC households must work on increasing their incomes through employment or by accessing mainstream resources such as SSI or SSDI, along with non-cash benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), WIC, and TANF.

SPC funds also pay for a security deposit up to the value of one month's rent when a household first enters the program. Some households may be eligible for utility assistance as well, depending on income and household size. SPC funds may not be used to pay for tenancy application fees, furniture or other start-up costs. SPC households are limited in rental amount by HUD's Fair Market Rent standards. For more information on Fair Market Rents in Missouri, see the Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual, Chapter 4.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health Housing Unit manages 41 HUD grants that fund SPC programs in both the urban counties of Jackson, St. Louis City, and St. Louis County, as well as many rural counties. The table below gives further information about DMH's SPC grants (updated April 2018):

Region Grants Area Covered Number of Households Budgeted to Assist Housing Unit Staff Contact
Kansas City Kansas City Metro: 9 grants Jackson County and Kansas City limits 470 Amy Copeland
St. Louis St. Louis City: 8 grants City of St. Louis 426 Judy Johnson
  St. Louis County: 6 grants County of St. Louis 104 Judy Johnson
Springfield Springfield Greene, Christian and Webster Counties 17 Liz Hagar-Mace
Joplin Joplin Jasper and Newton Counties 23 Dirk Cable
St. Joseph St. Joseph Buchanan, Andrew and DeKalb Counties 30 Amy Copeland
Balance of State (rural counties) Bootheel Stoddard, Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, and Dunklin Counties 17 Edwin Cooper
  Branson Stone and Taney Counties 17 Kelly Watkins-Turley
  Central Missouri Cole, Audrain, Callaway, and Cooper Counties 11 Kelly Watkins-Turley
  Farmington St. Francois County 21 Edwin Cooper
  Hannibal Ralls and Marion Counties 22 Edwin Cooper
  Jefferson-Franklin Jefferson and Franklin Counties 16 Edwin Cooper
  Kirksville: 2 grants Adair County 25 Edwin Cooper
  Nevada Vernon County 7 Kelly Watkins-Turley
  Outer Kansas City Metro Counties Cass, Ray, Lafayette, Johnson, Henry, and Bates Counties 11 Kelly Watkins-Turley
  Poplar Bluff Butler, Ripley, and Wayne Counties 23 Edwin Cooper
  West Central Missouri Johnson, Saline, and Pettis Counties 11 Edwin Cooper
  West Plains Howell County 17 Edwin Cooper
Total Grants: 39   Households: 1267  
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Who Is Eligible for Shelter Plus Care?

Households seeking SPC assistance must meet three requirements to be considered eligible:

  • The head of household (can be any adult in the household with a disability) must have a disability, which can be any of the following conditions: a serious mental illness, a chronic drug or alcohol use disorder, a severe and chronic developmental disability, a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, or a physical disability (see "What Is a Disability?" below, for more information on assessing disability status);
  • The head of household must be homeless as defined by HUD at the time a CoC referral is received by DMH (see "Who Is Homeless?" below, for HUD's definition of homelessness); and
  • The household must have a combined income no greater than 50% of the area median income as defined by HUD (see the Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual, Chapter Two, for more information on area median income).

Persons with felony criminal records, including registered sex offenders, are NOT excluded from eligibility. Several DMH SPC programs exclusively assist individuals who are chronically homeless according to HUD's definition of that term. See below for HUD's definition of "chronically homeless."

What Is a Disability?

HUD defines a disability as a condition that 1) is expected to be long-continuing or of indefinite duration; 2) substantially impedes an individual’s ability to live independently; 3) could be improved by the provision of more suitable housing conditions; and 4) is a physical, mental, or emotional impairment, including an impairment caused by alcohol or drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or brain injury. HUD regulations also specifically include developmental disabilities, AIDS, and HIV infection as disabling conditions.

For Shelter Plus Care eligibility purposes, a person does not need to be receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to qualify as disabled. To establish disability, a person who is licensed by the State of Missouri to diagnose a mental illness or one of the other conditions described above can complete the "Verification of Disability" form in the Shelter Plus Care Eligibility Packet, stating which disability the applicant has. The following professions are appropriately licensed or otherwise recognized by the State of Missouri to sign this form:

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Licensed Professional Counselor
  • Physician
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist

As an alternative to the Verification of Disability form, a person may prove they are disabled by documenting that they receive SSI and SSDI income from the Social Security Administration.

Who Is Homeless?

HUD issued a final rule defining homelessness on December 5, 2011:

"(i) An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public
or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping
accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building,
bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;"

  • A person whose primary nighttime residence is camping out or "squatting" in an unoccupied residential building without authorization by the owner (such as in an empty foreclosed house) would also be considered homeless.
  • Persons living in substandard housing are not usually considered homeless, but DMH Housing considers these situations case by case. To be considered homeless, the substandard structure would have to be significantly uninhabitable by humans for multiple reasons: condemned by local government, lacking water and power, infested with vermin, and/or open to the elements.

"(ii) An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter
designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters,
transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by
federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals);"

  • Persons living in a HUD-funded housing program known as a "Safe Haven" are also considered homeless. There are two such programs in Missouri: the Haven in St. Joseph, and the Safe Haven in Kennett.
  • Persons living in transitional housing programs are only considered homeless if their primary nighttime residence immediately prior to moving into the transitional housing program was a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, or an emergency shelter or other form of emergency housing. Persons entering transitional housing from an institutional setting, such as residential drug treatment, must have been in one of those two homeless settings ("street" or shelter) immediately prior to the institutional setting.
  • Self-paid hotel and motel stays do not qualify as homelessness. Hotel and motel stays must be paid for by entities outside the person's normal network of resources, so stays paid for by family or friends also do not qualify.

"(iii) An individual who is exiting an institution where he or she resided for 90 days or less and
who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately
before entering that institution."

  • "Institution" includes a residential drug treatment program, jail, hospital, nursing home, and residential care facility.

Documenting Homelessness for DMH's Shelter Plus Care Programs

HUD's final rule defining homelessness also defines requirements for documenting homelessness (see the link in the section above to HUD's final rule). DMH Housing's requirements for documenting homelessness in Shelter Plus Care Applications and Eligibility Packets are described below:

  • For an individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, provide a written eye-witness account from a case manager, outreach worker or other homeless services worker able to personally verify the head of household’s street homelessness. Describe in as much detail as possible: include locations, dates, and in what way the situation constitutes a place not meant for human habitation. This document must be on agency letterhead, and must be signed and dated by the author.
  • For an individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements, provide a letter from the shelter facility verifying the date(s) of entry and/or exit and that the head of household currently resides there; or instead of a letter from the shelter, you may provide a printout from a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) showing recorded shelter stays.
  • For an individual or family living in a transitional housing program, provide a letter from the transitional program verifying the date of entry and current residence; and documentation that the head of household was homeless immediately prior to entering the transitional program--either in an emergency shelter or a place not meant for human habitation. This documentation can consist of either a letter from a shelter, an HMIS printout, or a written observation of head of household’s former street homelessness.
  • For an individual who is exiting an institution where he or she resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution, provide a signed and dated verification from the institution staff that the applicant has resided there for ninety days or less and is about to exit the institution; and documentation that the head of household was homeless immediately prior to the institutional stay--either in an emergency shelter or living in a place not meant for human habitation. This documentation can consist of either a letter from the shelter, an HMIS printout, or a written observation of head of household’s former street homelessness.

Who Is Chronically Homeless?

HUD issued a final rule defining chronic homelessness on December 4, 2015. Chronically homeless means:

"(1) A 'homeless individual with a disability,' as defined in section 401(9)
of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11360(9)), who:

"(i) Lives in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an
emergency shelter; and

"(ii) Has been homeless and living as described in paragraph (1)(i) of this
definition continuously for at least 12 months or on at least 4 separate
occasions in the last 3 years, as long as the combined occasions equal at
least 12 months and each break in homelessness separating the occasions
included at least 7 consecutive nights of not living as described in paragraph (1)(i).
Stays in institutional care facilities for fewer than 90 days will not constitute as a
break in homelessness, but rather such stays are included in the 12-month total,
as long as the individual was living or residing in a place not meant for human
habitation, a safe haven, or an emergency shelter immediately before entering
the institutional care facility;

"(2) An individual who has been residing in an institutional care facility, including
a jail, substance abuse or mental health treatment facility, hospital, or other similar
facility, for fewer than 90 days and met all of the criteria in paragraph (1) of this
definition, before entering that facility; or

"(3) A family with an adult head of household (or if there is no adult in the family,
a minor head of household) who meets all of the criteria in paragraph (1) or (2) of
this definition, including a family whose composition has fluctuated while the head
of household has been homeless."

The final rule changed the existing definition in three ways:

First, the four episodes over the past three years must now total at least 12 months; so regardless of whether the person has been homeless episodically or continuously, the total amount of time must be at least 12 months.

Second, HUD reduced some of the ambiguity over what constitutes an "occasion" of homelessness by defining that a break in homelessness must be at least seven nights long; therefore, short occasions of homelessness separated by fewer than seven consecutive nights sleeping in places that don't qualify as homeless mean that such short occasions are all part of a single longer occasion of homelessness. Where it applies, DMH will continue to define a single occassion of homelessness, with defined breaks before and after, as at least seven consecutive nights of sleeping in any of the qualifying settings described above.

Third, time spent in an institutional setting, up to 90 days and where the person was homeless immediately before they entered the institution, is no longer considered a break in homelessness, but is included in figuring how long a person has been homeless.

An individual or family currently residing in a transitional housing program is still not considered chronically homeless, even if they have prior homeless history that otherwise fits the definition.

Accessing Shelter Plus Care Through Coordinated Entry

HUD defines coordinated entry (CE) as, "a process developed to ensure that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access and are quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connected to housing and assistance based on their strengths and needs." (HUD) All households entering DMH's SPC programs must do so through the CE processes set up by each Continuum of Care in the state.

DMH Housing has compiled a directory of all the CE processes in the state of Missouri. Download the CE Directory to see details and contact information for every Missouri CE process. This document will be frequently updated as changes in CE details are reported to DMH Housing.

Download the DMH Coordinated Entry Directory (revised 12/10/18)

When DMH Housing receives a CE referral, the agency contact person working with the household in need of assistance, or the Head of Household if there is no agency involved, will be asked to submit a Shelter Plus Care Eligibility Packet to DMH Housing. DMH Housing cannot accept Eligibility Packets that don't originate through CE. A DMH Housing Unit staff person will email the Eligibility Packet to the agency contact person or the Head of Household, or or will make alternative arrangements to send a Packet if email is not available to the Head of Household.

The Head of Household and their service provider, if any, have ten (10) working days to complete an Eligibility Packet and submit it to DMH Housing once it is requested by DMH Housing.

If you need help completing the Eligibility Packet, email DMH Housing or call 573-522-2120; or call toll-free 800-364-9687 and ask to speak to someone in the Housing Unit.

When a household is approved for SPC assistance, the agency contact person and the Head of Household must attend a briefing at a local housing agency that acts as a processing center for DMH. During the briefing, the Head of Household is given information about the rules of the SPC program, where and how to look for a rental unit, and their responsibilities as a future tenant. When the Head of Household locates a suitable unit, the unit is inspected to ensure that it meets HUD's housing quality standards.

Once the household is housed, it pays 30% of the household income toward rent, and SPC funds pay the remaining amount. Household income includes, but is not limited to, employment income, assistance payments from SSI, SSDI, TANF or other mainstream resources, and any income from other adults living in the rental unit. If the household has no income at all, SPC pays 100% of that household's rent.

Shelter Plus Care households are expected to improve income through employment, where possible, or by applying for mainstream assistance programs such as SSI or SSDI. Increased income not only improves housing stability but also allows DMH Housing to house more people using SPC funds.

For questions about Shelter Plus Care in specific areas of Missouri, please see the table, above, that shows the areas served and the staff members working with those areas.

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Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual

The Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual sets out the policies and procedures the DMH Housing Unit follows in the administration of its 42 HUD-funded Shelter Plus Care projects. The Manual is written primarily with community support workers and processing center staff in mind.  The public and persons seeking housing assistance will find portions of it useful as well. It is written to make these SPC projects as open and transparent as possible.

Using the Manual

The Manual is designed to be most easily used as a PDF document. It is extensively hyperlinked internally for easy navigation. It also has numerous links to external resources on the Web.

Forms in the Manual

DMH Housing tries to provide all forms required for administering its rental assistance programs, and all the forms are accessible in the Manual, in Chapter 9. The PDF format of the Manual is not ideal for copying out the forms and adapting them for each Processing Center's needs, however. Therefore, each form (excluding any found online, such as the HQS Inspection form) can now be downloaded as a Word or Excel file. Click the link below to visit the DMH Housing Forms page.

DMH Housing Forms

Updates to the Manual

DMH Housing updates the Manual whenever changes in state or federal laws or regulations affect the contents; when DMH Housing modifies its own policies or procedures; or when a substantive correction is needed. Substantive changes will be highlighted in red for easier location, and the date of the most current version will be displayed in the download link below. If you notice an error or would like to suggest additional content, please contact the Housing Unit.

Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual Updated October 30, 2017

DMH Housing published an updated version of the SPC Operations Manual on October 30, 2017. This was a minor update to clarify that households referred to DMH through Coordinated Entry have ten working days to complete and submit the Eligibility Packet to DMH Housing once it is requested by DMH Housing. The updated section is in Chapter 2. The information below pertains to the major update released on 10/3/17.

Updated section headings have an asterisk at the end of the heading, making them easily searchable if using the Manual as a PDF file (recommended). The major changes in this revision consist of:

  • The DMH Housing Manual was renamed the Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual and now has content related only to administering DMH's Shelter Plus Care projects. Content documenting the Rental Assistance Program has been moved to the new Rental Assistance Program Operations Manual, which will be published in the near future and located on the RAP page of this Web site.
  • Housing First policy and Violence Against Women Act policy added (Introduction).
  • Added information about Coordinated Entry processes throughout.
  • Added information about persons with physical disabilities being eligible for SPC assistance (Chapter 2).
  • Added a section on self-certification of homelessness (Chapter 2).
  • Updated list of included and excluded income (Chapter 3).
  • Revised Zero Income Declaration sample form (Chapter 3).
  • New section on timeline from referral to lease-up (Chapter 4).
  • Limits on Location of Rental Unit section completely revised to reflect HUD's 2016 rule on increasing voucher portability (Chapter 4).
  • Added new section on Processing Center's Required Tasks Before Tenant Move-In, documenting the steps to take and the timeline once a prospective tenant turns in paperwork on a new unit (Chapter 4).
  • Revised Security Deposits and Damages section and added sample letter requesting refund of deposit from owner (Chapter 4).
  • Revised Fair Market Rent section--new FMRs are now applied as soon as they go into effect, not when a project begins a new project year (Chapter 4).
  • Added new Chapter 5, Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), to more thoroughly document Processing Center requirements regarding HMIS data collection and entry.
  • Revised Chapter 6, Monthly Invoices, to document new billable recertification fee and other changes.

Click the link below to open, print, or save the SPC Operations Manual as a PDF file.

Shelter Plus Care Operations Manual (most current version: October 30, 2017)