In early May the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tier 2 awards to local Continuums of Care (CoCs). Our analysis of the results suggests a lot more individuals, families, youth and survivors of domestic violence will receive rapid re-housing in the upcoming year.
One of the critiques we often hear about rapid re-housing is that it does not provide all of the services that families need. And that is true. It provides families what they need to exit homelessness, but does not provide everything families need to increase their income, escape poverty, and improve the health, education and development of their young children. Of course, the likelihood of families increasing their income, escaping poverty and improving the health, education and development of their young children are far greater once they are housed – but the critics are right. More services are needed to support families than homeless programs can provide on their own.
Communities that are working to rapidly re-house families are doing fantastic work. These communities can do even more by developing partnerships with other systems of care to leverage additional support. Here are some examples:
TANF Agencies. Across the country, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding is being used to support rapid re-housing, including funding rental assistance and intensive case management. Other TANF resources are being deployed to help families receiving rapid re-housing services get connected to income support, work supports (such as child care and transportation) and employment opportunities.
In Los Angeles, for example, TANF staff members are stationed in regional Family Support Centers to help connect families experiencing homelessness to some of the supports/services they are eligible for – including subsidized employment.
Workforce Development Agencies. Most families who are rapidly re-housed will rely on income generated from employment to independently cover rental costs when time-limited rental assistance from rapid re-housing ends.
In Massachusetts, the Fireman Foundation launched Secure Jobs to improve the connection between workforce development programs and agencies providing rapid re-housing services to families. Connecticut is now replicating the Secure Jobs and improving connections to employment services is now a recognized task for most rapid re-housing providers.
Early Childhood Development Programs. Half of the children residing in shelter each year are age five or under. Many of these children are being parented by young mothers who themselves have little external support as they navigate the journey out of homelessness. Connections to early childhood education programs, such as the evidence-based programs funded under the Maternal, Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation Program, are an ideal companion to rapid re-housing services for young families.
The rapid re-housing program can help young mothers access and stabilize in housing, while the home visiting provider offers mobile, specialized child development services. These mobile services can help strengthen the parent-child bond, stimulate the education and development of young children, work to improve parents’ self-sufficiency and provide the supports necessary to help young children thrive.
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). PHAs are critical partners in the effort to end homelessness. Without dedicated permanent housing resources, some individuals and families experiencing the most severe, long lasting homeless episodes would never exit homelessness. PHAs are also emerging as important partners in promoting the success of community-wide rapid re-housing efforts that have adopted a system-wide progressive engagement approach by facilitating access to subsidized housing for families that are unable to stabilize after receiving rapid re-housing assistance
In Cleveland, for example, almost all families are referred to rapid re-housing. When necessary, rapid re-housing rental assistance and case management services are extended. Families who are unable to stabilize with this extended support are prioritized for permanent housing assistance.
Improving the lives of families experiencing homelessness requires helping families exit homelessness as quickly as possible with the help and support they need to retain housing. This is the reason homeless service programs across the country are realigning their services and expanding rapid re-housing. But helping families over the long-term, helping them continue on a trajectory of success, requires leveraging the resources and supportive services available from partnering systems.
What partnerships are evolving in your community to end family homelessness?