WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced awarding $1.41 billion to keep 6,741 local homeless assistance programs operating this year.

These awards mark the renewal of funding through HUD’s Continuum of Care program to existing local programs. The department will award funds to new projects later this year.

The total represents a slight increase from the $1.37 billion in renewal grants awarded last year, said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

 He stressed that the funds are an important investment. The cost of doing nothing would add to much more, said Donovan, citing studies that show providing supportive housing is less expensive than leaving the chronically homeless on the streets, where they rack up costly emergency room and jail expenses.

The grants will be used to support a wide range of housing and services for homeless families with children, unaccompanied youths, victims of domestic violence, veterans, and others, said Mercedes Marquez, HUD assistant secretary for community planning and development.

California received the largest share of funds with 801 projects or programs receiving $227.6 million. In New York, 654 projects and programs will share $165.6 million.

Donovan noted that the awards announcement comes just a week before thousands of volunteers in cities and counties across the nation conduct a national one-night count of homeless persons.

Understanding the extent of the problem is essential to solving it, he said.