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How to do more.

Coverage. Encourage city officials1 and service providers to enter into the CoC’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Moving every homeless service provider into one centralized database will ensure no individuals are falling through the radar of the response system, can improve federal application scores (brining more money to Memphis), and will help ease basic data questions we can only offer ranges to at this time: how many people were homeless last night?

Change CDBG. Each year, HUD determines an annual baseline amount of CoC funds awarded to each community (through an application called the NOFO), which is the higher of one of two calculated amounts:

  • Annual Renewal Demand (ARD) or;
  • Preliminary Pro Rata Need (PPRN).

Memphis/Shelby County’s CoC funding is currently based on the ARD, meaning our community already receives more funding than should be allocated based on our PPRN due to past bonus awards received during the second Bush administration.

Current overlay of CoC funds:

However, the PPRN calculation is far lower than any other comparably sized city, because it is based on the same outmoded formula as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

CDBG utilizes two formulas (A and B) to determine the amount a grantee will receive. In recent years, there has been considerable attention paid to the poorly designed formula for CDBG, yet it’s not often discussed that CoC funds can be detrimentally linked as well.

In other words, most of the funding streams that aim to invest in housing initiatives and an end to homelessness are handcuffed to CDBG. If Congress and HUD change the CDBG formula, Memphis/ Shelby County would be able to elect a new maximum CoC amount based on the PPRN and match up to other cities nationally, potentially bringing about a swifter end to homelessness.

Adopt a Right to Shelter. Nationally, only one city has a mandated right-to-shelter order: New York. Under this directive, any person who faces literal homelessness on a given night can receive admittance to a shelter or hotel; New York citizens gained this right through a lawsuit targeting the state’s constitutional pledge to ensure public safety. Tennessee has no such loophole to explore, but it doesn’t mean the city cannot enact their own standard. 

On average, Memphis will experience more than a dozen days of life-threatening temperatures. Many will not locate warming/cooling centers2 in time; others will not feel welcome or uncomfortable occupying such spaces. In 2021, two individuals experiencing homelessness died without intervention and others suffered permanent, physical damage.

With a right-to-shelter order, Memphis can save lives and dignity. Push them to do so: mayor@memphistn.gov.

Destigmatize. Commonly, many people project ideas of homelessness as the result of substance use concerns, mental health needs, or a lack of employment as common barriers to being rehoused. While a person’s well-being may be compromised by many circumstances, homelessness exists as a failure of design. A modern society that is unable to provide proper care for its people is part of why many advocate for the defunding of police and justice centers; defunding is not the act of ending public safety but redistributing and redsigning funds to respond to harm, not fear.

To go without food or running water is harm. To be left to manage addiction on one’s own is harm. To live without shelter is harm.

Learn More. The information listed here is intentionally non-exhaustive. The regulations and reporting requirements around homelessness spending are significant, but the response system is filled with experts navigating the grittier ends. What’s most important is ensuring the hows and whys find some light in public discussion and eventually the ballot box. 

For deeper resources, we recommend:

Community Alliance’s Resource Guide
Innovate Memphis’ 2020 Housing Report
U. of Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet

I have a legal record.
︎︎︎ Expungement services are available through Just City.

I want a diploma.
︎︎︎ Adult education services are available through HopeWorks.


1 Email HCD reps here, tell them you want to see Memphis expand its bed coverage to include emergency shelters!

2 Warming and cooling centers are overseen by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Advocate for them to deliver unsheltered folks to hotel/motels, not community centers that are not equipped to handle large volumes of people safely or hygenically. Email here!