(1) The State Office on Homelessness is created within the Department of Children and Families to provide interagency, council, and other related coordination on issues relating to homelessness.
(2) The Council on Homelessness is created to consist of 17 representatives of public and private agencies who shall develop policy and advise the State Office on Homelessness. The council members shall be: the Secretary of Children and Families, or his or her designee; the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, or his or her designee, who shall advise the council on issues related to rural development; the State Surgeon General, or his or her designee; the Executive Director of Veterans’ Affairs, or his or her designee; the Secretary of Corrections, or his or her designee; the Secretary of Health Care Administration, or his or her designee; the Commissioner of Education, or his or her designee; the Director of CareerSource Florida, Inc., or his or her designee; one representative of the Florida Association of Counties; one representative of the Florida League of Cities; one representative of the Florida Supportive Housing Coalition; the Executive Director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, or his or her designee; one representative of the Florida Coalition for the Homeless; and four members appointed by the Governor. The council members shall be nonpaid volunteers and shall be reimbursed only for travel expenses. The appointed members of the council shall be appointed to staggered 2-year terms, and the council shall meet at least four times per year. The importance of minority, gender, and geographic representation shall be considered in appointing members to the council.
(3) The State Office on Homelessness, pursuant to the policies set by the council and subject to the availability of funding, shall: (a) Coordinate among state, local, and private agencies and providers to produce a statewide consolidated inventory for the state’s entire system of homeless programs which incorporates regionally developed plans. Such programs include, but are not limited to:
1. Programs authorized under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, 42 U.S.C. ss. 11371 et seq., and carried out under funds awarded to this state; and
2. Programs, components thereof, or activities that assist persons who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.
(b) Collect, maintain, and make available information concerning persons who are homeless or at risk for homelessness, including demographics information, current services and resources available, the cost and availability of services and programs, and the met and unmet needs of this population. All entities that receive state funding must provide access to all data they maintain in summary form, with no individual identifying information, to assist the council in providing this information. The State Office on Homelessness, in consultation with the designated lead agencies for a local homeless continuum of care and with the Council on Homelessness, shall develop the system and process of data collection from all lead agencies for the purpose of analyzing trends and assessing impacts in the statewide homeless delivery system. Any statewide homelessness survey and database system must comply with all state and federal statutory and regulatory confidentiality requirements.
(c) Annually evaluate state and local services and resources and develop a consolidated plan for addressing the needs of the homeless or those at risk for homelessness.
(d) Explore, compile, and disseminate information regarding public and private funding sources for state and local programs serving the homeless and provide technical assistance in applying for such funding.
(e) Monitor and provide recommendations for coordinating the activities and programs of local coalitions for the homeless and promote the effectiveness of programs addressing the needs of the homeless.
(f) Provide technical assistance to facilitate efforts to establish, maintain, and expand local homeless assistance continuums of care.
(g) Develop and assist in the coordination of policies and procedures relating to the discharge or transfer from the care or custody of state-supported or state-regulated entities persons who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.
(h) Spearhead outreach efforts for maximizing access by people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness to state and federal programs and resources.
(i) Promote a federal policy agenda responsive to the needs of the homeless population in this state.
(j) Develop outcome and accountability measures and promote and use such measures to evaluate program effectiveness and make recommendations for improving current practices in order to best meet the needs of the homeless.
(k) Formulate policies and legislative proposals to address more effectively the needs of the homeless and coordinate the implementation of state and federal legislative policies.
(l) Convene meetings and workshops of state and local agencies, local coalitions and programs, and other stakeholders for the purpose of developing and reviewing policies, services, activities, coordination, and funding of efforts to meet the needs of the homeless.
(m) Conduct or promote research on the effectiveness of current programs and propose pilot projects aimed at improving services.
(n) Serve as an advocate for issues relating to homelessness.
(o) Investigate ways to improve access to participation in state funding and other programs for prevention and alleviation of homelessness to faith-based organizations and collaborate and coordinate with faith-based organizations.
(4) The State Office on Homelessness, with the concurrence of the Council on Homelessness, shall accept and administer moneys appropriated to it to provide annual “Challenge Grants” to lead agencies of homeless assistance continuums of care designated by the State Office on Homelessness pursuant to s. 420.624. The department shall establish varying levels of grant awards up to $500,000 per lead agency. The department, in consultation with the Council on Homelessness, shall specify a grant award level in the notice of the solicitation of grant applications.
(a) To qualify for the grant, a lead agency must develop and implement a local homeless assistance continuum of care plan for its designated catchment area. The continuum of care plan must implement a coordinated assessment or central intake system to screen, assess, and refer persons seeking assistance to the appropriate service provider. The lead agency shall also document the commitment of local government or private organizations to provide matching funds or in-kind support in an amount equal to the grant requested. Expenditures of leveraged funds or resources, including third-party cash or in-kind contributions, are authorized only for eligible activities committed on one project which have not been used as leverage or match for any other project or program and must be certified through a written commitment.
(b) Preference must be given to those lead agencies that have demonstrated the ability of their continuum of care to provide quality services to homeless persons and the ability to leverage federal homeless-assistance funding under the Stewart B. McKinney Act with local government funding or private funding for the provision of services to homeless persons.
(c) Preference must be given to lead agencies in catchment areas with the greatest need for the provision of housing and services to the homeless, relative to the population of the catchment area.
(d) The grant may be used to fund any of the housing, program, or service needs included in the local homeless assistance continuum of care plan. The lead agency may allocate the grant to programs, services, or housing providers that implement the local homeless assistance continuum care plan. The lead agency may provide subgrants to a local agency to implement programs or services or provide housing identified for funding in the lead agency’s application to the department. A lead agency may spend a maximum of 8 percent of its funding on administrative costs.
(e) The lead agency shall submit a final report to the department documenting the outcomes achieved by the grant in enabling persons who are homeless to return to permanent housing thereby ending such person’s episode of homelessness.
(5) The State Office on Homelessness, with the concurrence of the Council on Homelessness, may administer moneys appropriated to it to provide homeless housing assistance grants annually to lead agencies for local homeless assistance continuum of care, as recognized by the State Office on Homelessness, to acquire, construct, or rehabilitate transitional or permanent housing units for homeless persons. These moneys shall consist of any sums that the state may appropriate, as well as money received from donations, gifts, bequests, or otherwise from any public or private source, which are intended to acquire, construct, or rehabilitate transitional or permanent housing units for homeless persons.
(a) Grant applicants shall be ranked competitively. Preference must be given to applicants who leverage additional private funds and public funds, particularly federal funds designated for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of transitional or permanent housing for homeless persons; who acquire, build, or rehabilitate the greatest number of units; or who acquire, build, or rehabilitate in catchment areas having the greatest need for housing for the homeless relative to the population of the catchment area.
(b) Funding for any particular project may not exceed $750,000.
(c) Projects must reserve, for a minimum of 10 years, the number of units acquired, constructed, or rehabilitated through homeless housing assistance grant funding to serve persons who are homeless at the time they assume tenancy.
(d) No more than two grants may be awarded annually in any given local homeless assistance continuum of care catchment area.
(e) A project may not be funded which is not included in the local homeless assistance continuum of care plan, as recognized by the State Office on Homelessness, for the catchment area in which the project is located.
(f) The maximum percentage of funds that the State Office on Homelessness and each applicant may spend on administrative costs is 5 percent.
(6) The State Office on Homelessness, in conjunction with the Council on Homelessness, shall establish performance measures and specific objectives by which it may evaluate the performance and outcomes of lead agencies that receive grant funds. Challenge Grants made through the State Office on Homelessness shall be distributed to lead agencies based on their overall performance and their achievement of specified objectives. Each lead agency for which grants are made under this section shall provide the State Office on Homelessness a thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of the program in achieving its stated purpose. In evaluating the performance of the lead agencies, the State Office on Homelessness shall base its criteria upon the program objectives, goals, and priorities that were set forth by the lead agencies in their proposals for funding. Such criteria may include, but are not limited to, the number of persons or households that are no longer homeless, the rate of recidivism to homelessness, and the number of persons who obtain gainful employment.
(7) The State Office on Homelessness must monitor the challenge grants and homeless housing assistance grants to ensure proper expenditure of funds and compliance with the conditions of the applicant’s contract.
(8) The Department of Children and Families, with input from the Council on Homelessness, must adopt rules relating to the challenge grants and the homeless housing assistance grants and related issues consistent with the purposes of this section.
(9) The council shall, by June 30 of each year, provide to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Secretary of Children and Families a report summarizing the extent of homelessness in the state and the council’s recommendations for reducing homelessness in this state.
(10) The State Office on Homelessness may administer moneys appropriated to it for distribution among the 28 local homeless continuums of care designated by the Department of Children and Families.