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CalWORKs Homeless Assistance including rent and security deposit programs.

For the very low income in California that are homeless or facing imminent eviction, the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance program may be able to help. Any cash grants are offered only once per lifetime, and a number of conditions need to be met. They include the parents need to be unemployed, disabled, or deceased. Income and other criteria have also been put into place by the state of California.

While most families use the funds to prevent an eviction, there are also temporary and permanent housing options available from CalWORKs. As part of this service, the Homeless Assistance (HA) Program provides either cash grants to pay rent, free vouchers for a motel (temporary housing) or financial aid to obtain a permanent home. More details on each of these components is below.

  • Temporary housing - This will offer payments to currently homeless families while they are searching for work and a new, permanent home or apartment to live in.
  • Permanent services are available as part of CalWORKs. The program will work with families in an effort to find a new, long term home for the resident.
  • Emergency rental assistance - For those California residents that meet conditions, including they have received a pay or quit notice, the state may offer funds to pay up two months of back rent.

For any type of temporary financial aid issued, this of course will depend on funding levels. However, in some cases, the homeless may qualify for up to 16 days worth of short term payments or vouchers for a shelter or motel. There are limits as to how much is paid out, and it may range between $50 to $100 per day, depending on factors including the family size. In addition, the participant needs to be actively searching for permanent housing, provide proof of that housing search, and provide the case manager with verification of shelter costs. If CalWORKs can’t assist, then find additional rent help.

The state will contribute a voucher towards a motel or hotel room. There are also short term transitional housing units available that may be paid for. An applicant needs to be very low income, homeless, and have no other assets available to them.




The permanent housing program from CalWorks provides a once per lifetime cash payment. The funds can be used for a number of expenses, including the following.

  • A couple months of back rent that is due to a landlord. The crisis or hardship that caused this issue needs to be due to circumstances beyond the family's control.
  • Legal aid and representation to stop an eviction.
  • Pay for new housing, and this may be for a security deposit or last months rent.

While even more limited than some of the resources mentioned above, a grant from CalWorks can be used to pay for a utility connection deposits or turn on fees as part of the permanent HA. It can be for electricity, natural gas, or even water services. There are of course limits to the dollar amount available in California. Also, the home or apartment being moved into has to be affordable and the family needs to pay the rent going forward.

Any aid from the state is once per lifetime. In most cases, applicants can't double dip. Meaning they cannot receive compensation from both the temporary and permanent housing programs referenced above. So there are numerous restrictions in place. From time to time there can be certain exceptions made in extreme cases.

Note there are some other similar programs that may be able to help struggling families. One of these is the CalWORKs Immediate Need. A couple hundred dollars may be paid out to assist those facing an eviction, behind on their utilities, or the cash assistance can address other housing challenges. This as also a crisis program administered locally.





Any rental help paid out will also require clients to become self-supporting, obtain employment as quickly as possible and eliminate or reduce their dependence on public aid. To learn more on these housing programs, call your local social service office. For more information, contact your local human services office.

By Jon McNamara

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