Putting out an RFP for a New Rapid Re-Housing Project? Here are 5 Tips for Evaluating Applicants

This is the third in a series of blog posts from the Alliance's Capacity Building Center to help prepare your community for this year’s NOFA. The first post discussed highlights of the CoC program Registration, and the second provided resources for tiering and ranking projects.

In this year’s NOFA Registration Notice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is strongly encouraging Continuums of Care (CoCs) to reallocate funding to interventions that more effectively reduce homelessness.

In 2015 you can reallocate funds from existing eligible renewal projects to create new rapid re-housing projects for homeless individuals and families, including unaccompanied youth, who are coming directly from the streets, emergency shelters or who are fleeing domestic violence. If your CoC decided to reallocate funds to fund rapid re-housing through the NOFA process or if you work for a foundation or a local government that wants to fund rapid re-housing, you will probably need to write a Request for Proposals (RFP) and figure out a way to evaluate applications.

Here are five tips for writing a great rapid re-housing RFP:

1. Think about what your community needs. Take a look at the gaps in your homelessness system, and determine where you can have the most impact. For example, if single adults make up the majority of your homeless population, but the vast majority of your resources are for homeless families, you should target this money towards rapid re-housing for single adults.

2. Create an RFP and application that aligns with the Core Components. The Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing were developed in collaboration with, and endorsed by, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and HUD. A program must have all three core components to be considered a rapid re-housing program, but that doesn’t mean that one organization has to provide all three. For example, your Public Housing Authority might administer the financial assistance while a nonprofit service provider provides the housing identification and case management services. However your program is structured, you must ensure that all three core components are in place.

3. Align with best practices. The Core Components create a minimum standard for an effective rapid re-housing program, but you can further improve your program take by implementing some of the best practices included in this paper (starting on page 4). Ask how applicants will market to landlord and retain them; how they will provide the least amount of financial assistance necessary to serve the most people; and how their case management will be strengths-based, client-driven, and voluntary.

4. Ask what will be different. If your applicants have never provided rapid re-housing before, they should describe how this will be different from what they are already doing, especially if they have been operating a transitional housing program or a shelter.

Ask for sample job descriptions, eligibility criteria, and policies and procedures that will be used to operate the program. Too often, rapid re-housing case manager job descriptions look exactly like traditional shelter or transitional housing job descriptions. Rapid re-housing case management should look really different: it takes place in a client’s home; it is voluntary, primarily focused on obtaining and sustaining housing and, because it is short-term, connects clients to other community resources that will help them keep their housing.

The program staff should also include a housing specialist or locator. Rapid re-housing does not work without having a pool of readily available landlords, so having a person whose entire job it is to recruit and retain landlords is really important. Here is an example Housing Specialist job description. Also, ask applicants how they structure their financial assistance. Financial assistance should be individualized, flexible, and use a progressive engagement model of assistance.

5. Ask for outcomes. If your applicant is new to rapid re-housing, but they have operated other kinds of programs, you should evaluate them based on past performance. Some key ones you should look for:

  • Do they incorporate a Housing First approach?
  • How many people are exiting to permanent housing?
  • Do they have past monitoring findings and have they been resolved?
  • Does their program align with CoC priorities?

If they have operated a rapid re-housing program in the past, you should evaluate them based on recent outcomes including:

  • How long does it take to rapidly re-house someone in their program from program entry to housing?
  • How long do people stay before exiting the program to permanent housing?
  • At what rate to people become homeless again after exiting to permanent housing?

Stay tuned to the Alliance blog once the NOFA is released for more resources and tips. If you have any questions or ideas you want to share, comment below or email me at ablasco@naeh.org.