Emergency Shelter Allowance (ESA)

What is ESA For?

Emergency Shelter Allowance is a program of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services (DHS). It assists families and individuals who are homeless or near homeless and who need financial assistance in order to:

  • Prevent eviction or foreclosure
  • Obtain permanent housing
  • Obtain temporary shelter

Who is eligible for ESA?

Eligibility for the program is determined by individual or family income. Individuals do not need to be on any form of public assistance to apply for this program, but there is an income limit.

The income limit is 80% of the poverty level for households with members under age 21 (age 20 and younger). For households where everyone is age 21 or over, income limits are the same as that for cash assistance, which have the lowest income limits of all forms of public assistance. So if those households are income-eligible for an ESA, they are also income-eligible for other benefits.

An individual or family may also be eligible for Emergency Shelter Allowance if they are leaving a domestic violence situation.

How much does ESA provide?

The amount of assistance provided…

  • for permanent living quarters (homeless families/individuals) is $100 or $300, depending on the family composition.
  • to prevent eviction or foreclosure is either $300 or $400, also depending on the family composition.
  • or temporary shelter for uninhabitable or condemned homes and for families leaving a domestic violence situation is $100.

The amount of the emergency shelter allowance must be sufficient to resolve the emergency and the applicant must have sufficient anticipated income to pay future rent. An emergency shelter allowance is only granted for one 30-day period in twelve months.

How to apply for ESA:

If you are in need of emergency housing assistance, call your caseworker or your local county assistance office (CAO) to apply.

If you are already receiving cash assistance, medical assistance, or SNAP/food stamps, you should contact your DHS caseworker – either in the office or over the phone – and ask for an interview to apply for an emergency shelter allowance. Your local CAO will use information from your existing case record to complete the ESA application. Once you verify your housing crisis and that your income meets the guidelines, you qualify.

If you are not receiving any of those benefits, you need to complete an application for public assistance (PA 600), provide a social security number, submit proof of income, and speak with a caseworker to then apply for the emergency shelter allowance.

The CAO has 7 calendar days from the date of application to make an eligibility determination.