(1) The State Office on Homelessness is created within the Department of Children and Family Services to provide interagency, council, and other related coordination on issues relating to homelessness. An executive director of the office shall be appointed by the Governor.
(2) The Council on Homelessness is created to consist of a 17-member council of public and private agency representatives who shall develop policy and advise the State Office on Homelessness. The council members shall be: the Secretary of Children and Family Services, or his or her designee; the Secretary of Community Affairs, or his or her designee, to 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 Workforce Florida, Inc., or his or her designee; one representative of the Florida Association of Counties; one representative from 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 volunteer, nonpaid persons and shall be reimbursed for travel expenses only. 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 must be considered when 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 program and financial plan 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 council shall explore the potential of creating a statewide Management Information System (MIS), encouraging the future participation of any bodies that are receiving awards or grants from the state, if such a system were adopted, enacted, and accepted by the state.
(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) Not less than 120 days after the effective date of this act, the State Office on Homelessness, with the concurrence of the Council on Homelessness, may accept and administer moneys appropriated to it to provide “Challenge Grants” annually to lead agencies for homeless assistance continuums of care designated by the State Office on Homelessness. A lead agency may be a local homeless coalition, municipal or county government, or other public agency or private, not-for-profit corporation. Such grants may be up to $500,000 per lead agency.
(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.
(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 and 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.
(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; and 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 shall establish performance measures to evaluate the effective performance of lead agencies that receive grant funds. 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 not be limited to, number of homeless individuals provided shelter, food, counseling, and job training.
(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 Family Services, 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, beginning in 2010, provide to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Secretary of Children and Family Services a report summarizing the extent of homelessness in the state and the council’s recommendations for reducing homelessness in this state.