Rent and move-in assistance: Getting started

In our Rapid Re-Housing Know-How Series we are talking about the three core components of rapid re-housing. This week we will focus on the second component: rent and move-in assistance.

The goal of rent and move-in assistance is to provide short-term help to households so they can pay for housing. The amount and duration of financial assistance provided by a rapid re-housing program can vary. At a minimum, programs should provide the assistance necessary for participants to move immediately out of homelessness and to stabilize in permanent housing.

Programs can help fund the moving process, security deposits, rental payments, and utility assistance. Financial assistance can come in the form of a full subsidy covering the entire rent for a period of time, or a shallow subsidy covering a portion of the rent. Here are some important resources to get you started:

Providers often have questions about how to structure financial assistance. Here are three things to consider as you develop this component of your program.

  1. Financial assistance should be flexible and individualized. Financial assistance is not a standard “package” and should be flexible enough to adjust to households’ unique needs and resource. This is especially true as participants’ financial circumstances or housing costs change

    While programs should be attentive to the ability of a household to maintain housing once the subsidy ends, they should not necessarily exclude housing options that exceed 30 percent of a participant’s income. In fact, a majority of low-income and poor households pay significantly more than 30% of their income on housing and remain stably housed. Instead, programs should recognize that RRH households will be in a much better position to increase their incomes and address their other needs once they are in housing, and this may help to close this gap.

  2. A progressive engagement approach maximizes the number of households you can help. Rapid re-housing programs should provide households with the financial assistance in a progressive manner.

    Progressive engagement refers to a strategy of providing a small amount of assistance to everyone entering the homelessness system. For most, a small amount of assistance is enough to stabilize, but for those who need more, more assistance is provided. This flexible approach maximizes resources by only providing the most assistance to the households who truly need it. This approach is supported by research that shows household characteristics such as income, employment, and substance use cannot predict what level of assistance a household will need.

    What do you need to implement a progressive engagement approach?

    In our recent Rapid Re-Housing Webinar on Addressing Family Homelessness in Cleveland, we heard about their unique approach to applying progressive engagement throughout the system and in referring all families to rapid re-housing. Watch here:

  3. Remember, rapid re-housing works! The intent of the rent and move-in assistance component of rapid re-housing is to enable the quick resolution of the immediate housing crisis. A majority of RRH participants will be able to maintain housing with short-term rent assistance.

    Programs assume households, even those with zero income or other barriers, will succeed with a minimal subsidy rather than a long subsidy and extend if/when necessary. Households with higher housing barriers or no income may need assistance of different depths or durations, but should still be assisted in immediately attaining permanent housing. The large majority will still successfully exit to permanent housing.