A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a local or regional planning body that is responsible for coordinating the funding and delivery of housing and services for people experiencing homelessness in its service area. CoCs also maintain the local Homeless Management Information System, which is used to collect and report data on the characteristics people of experiencing homelessness and their service use patterns. Individual CoCs receive funding through the Continuum of Care Program, which is designed to promote a community-wide response to ending homelessness.
Each CoC is generally composed of nonprofit service providers and local government agencies, such as departments of health and human services and public housing agencies, as well as other stakeholders that can include philanthropic organizations and local businesses. Every community is covered by a CoC, and an individual CoC’s territory may be a city, county, metropolitan area, or even an entire state or the “balance of state” not included in a local CoC. There are more than 400 CoCs in the U.S.
Most CoCs were formed in the mid-1990s, when HUD introduced incentives and program changes designed to encourage a community-wide response to homelessness. In 1995, for example, HUD began to provide preferential consideration to communities that used a collaborative planning process when preparing their applications for homeless program funding. In 1998, HUD combined notices of funding availability for individual programs into a single “Super NOFA” application. Some cities had already established discrete systems for addressing homelessness that became the CoC, others created new planning bodies to fully benefit from the changes in HUD planning processes.
While applying for and obtaining HUD funding is one of CoCs’ primary priorities, their role in the community is typically much broader. CoCs also develop plans to improve coordination and communication among members of the homeless service system and with mainstream service providers. CoCs also play an important role in collecting and reporting data in the HMIS. They may also be involved in policy advocacy at the local, state, or federal level, or in organizing trainings and delivering technical assistance for local providers.
View a fact sheet on Continuums of Care prepared by the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Visit the Continuum of Care Program page on HUD Exchange
Download a 2015 report detailing findings from a national survey of CoCs