Ending Homelessness Today

The Official Blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness

Can You Use Rapid Re-Housing to Serve Homeless Youth? Some Providers Already Are.

Ever since the days of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), communities have been using rapid re-housing to making great strides toward ending homelessness.

And while we know that rapid re-housing, which provides short-term subsidies to get homeless people into housing and back on their feet, is much more cost-effective than traditional homelessness interventions, some people still assume the model won’t work for homeless youth. But youth providers around the country are already proving that assumption wrong.

And guess what? They’re providing the same core components of rapid re-housing as adult rapid re-housing providers: housing identification, rent and move-in assistance, and case management and services. The trick to serving youth is to tailor each component according to where young people are in their life journeys.

Housing identification

For example, landlords may be more hesitant to rent to a young adult with no rental history. So a youth provider helping a homeless youth identify potential housing might take extra steps to reassure the landlords they contact, like offering to pay an extra security deposit.

As in all other effective rapid rehousing programs, once landlords realize they will receive rents dependably and are assured the provider will take responsibility for mitigating damages or mediating any potential lease violations, they are usually happy to have a steady source of reliable tenants.

Rent and move-in assistance

Just like any other rapid rehousing provider, youth rapid rehousing providers will provide financial assistance to help homeless youth with moving into housing and paying rent. The only difference is that young people usually require assistance for longer period on average compared to adults, who are often a lot more experienced working and living on their own.

Case management and services

Here is where we see perhaps the biggest difference between rapidly re-housing adults and rapidly re-housing youth. These youth will be transitioning to adulthood and independence, which is a time of trying things out, making mistakes, and learning from them.

Youth who have never have lived on their own may require more intensive case management up front just to learn all the ins and outs of running their own household, like understanding lease requirements, developing household budgets, being a good neighbor, or even learning how to shop for and cook healthy meals.

For homeless youth with histories of family-related trauma and instability, the rapid re-housing program may be the first time in a long time they’ve had a safe, stable platform from which to experience life, which is undoubtedly a good thing, but can also make for a difficult adjustment.

For all these reasons and more, case management services in youth rapid rehousing programs should be flexible and individualized, and they will probably also need to be more intensive (with smaller caseloads for the case managers) and last for longer on average than they might for adult clients.

One other thing youth rapid rehousing providers seem to have in common is that they believe that young people can succeed in rapid rehousing and take it as a challenge upon themselves to make that happen.

They are committed to combining housing first and harm reduction approaches with other service philosophies like positive youth development to get homeless youth off the streets and into housing.

Want to learn more about the benefits and challenges of rapid re-housing for youth? Check out these profiles from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of a few great programs that are using rapid re-housing for youth. Also, be sure to check out this webinar from another great rapid re-housing provider, Valley Youth House.

If you know of a community that is using rapid re-housing to end youth homelessness, I’d love to hear about it. Send me an email and tell me more: mmitchell@naeh.org.