WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced Thursday that his agency will provide $2 billion in grants to fight homelessness through temporary housing.

“The funding we announced today is provided through the Continuum of Care grant program – it’s a program that goes to the very heart of HUD’s mission. These grants also support our broader goal of ending or preventing homelessness as we know it,” Carson said.

The grant total compares to last year’s $1.95 billion given to both existing and new projects.

The program funds state and local government as well as nonprofit efforts to tackle homelessness. California had the highest number of agencies receive funding at 900, which equated to over $382 million in funding.

Carson explained that HUD focuses on getting people off the street and into temporary housing situations, diagnosing why someone is homeless and tries to treat that problem.

Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said that this year’s competition addressed both people’s immediate crisis needs while also providing them with resources to find permanent housing on their own eventually.

Carson noted that HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress said that 553,742 individuals were homeless on any given night in 2017, “an increase of .7 percent since last year.”

HUD officials said that the deadline for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to file for Continuum of Care grants would be extended to Feb. 16 because they are grappling with the effects of Hurricane Maria. Officials said that the funds allocated for the islands’ CoC grants would be in addition to the $2 billion already announced.