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30th November
written by Catherine An

The Alliance just put out a huge (seriously, it’s hefty) toolkit – what we’re calling the Columbus Model.

So here’s the thing: Columbus, OH is really good at ending homelessness. Really, they’ve done all the right things: focused on prevention, implemented rapid re-housing techniques, encouraged excellent data collecting – all the things that make a program measurably successful. They’re so good, in fact, that we published a community snapshot on their 46 percent decrease in homelessness a few years ago.

And they’re still at it! With laser-focus on performance measurement and performance evaluation of both their community-wide homeless assistance system and their individual programs, Columbus has managed to really focus on improving assistance and reducing homelessness.

Lucky for you, we’ve distilled the lessons learned in this community and we’re sharing them with you so that you can implement them in yours! Our four-part profile of the Columbus Model includes:

We’ve also included tools and samples that you can download and adapt for your own community.

Why do you care? You care because next year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to get serious about the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act (that’s the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Grants) – and communities everywhere are going to have to shape up to meet those outcomes. One of the great things about the Columbus Model is that it already meets many of the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act – Columbus works on reducing the length of stay, preventing loss of housing, encouraging rapid re-housing, housing stability, data collection, performance measurement, and a number of the other goals that will be required upon the implementation of the HEARTH Act.

We hope you find this model helpful – please feel free to peruse the articles and download the supplemental tools and guidelines. For more information abou the model, or to learn more about the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building, please email us.


  1. [...] Columbus OH Reduces Homelessness by 46%! Introducing the “Columbus Model” November 30, 2010 by krosssitcawich The National Alliance to End Homelessness has highlighted the tremendous success that Columbus, OH has had with the re-engineering of their homeless service delivery programming. Their success is evident in their being able to reduce homelessness by 46% between 1997 to 2004! That, is outstanding. Article here. [...]

  2. Joyce Baker

    I am loosing my apartment in 4 days no one will rent to me cuz a previos notice that I owed a company 800 cuz my ex husband ruined my credit. If by sunday I don’t get an appartment or a hose children services will take my kids from me. Please help me

  3. Thank you for posting about the work in Columbus. They have long been a leader in data collection, analysis and management and we have benefited from their expertise in HMIS technical assistance.

    However, what concerns me as we move into HEARTH implementation is that those of us in costlier rental markets will be measured for performance compared to cities with much lower housing costs. A quick comparison shows that in October, the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Columbus Ohio was $882. In Glendale, CA, it was $1,873.

    For our clients, no measure of rent negotiations can overcome this gap between high rents and extremely low incomes. This gap translates into longer periods of homelessness as we need more time to work to get our clients’ income up or place them in a subsidized unit (which are very hard to obtain).

    One of our more successful programs is a scattered site transitional housing program, which provides a two year subsidy in an apartment in the community. At the end of the term, clients may opt to take over the lease if they can afford the market rent. We like this model. It doesn’t keep people on a subsidy forever, and doesn’t stigmatize the family by putting them in a project-based program. It is very similar to the rapid re-housing program we operate, but easier because it doesn’t have such stringent entry requirements.

    It is gratifying to see so much thought into perfecting homeless services. I just hope that we don’t forget that our agencies have to operate in some very localized circumstances that they often cannot control.

  4. Norm Suchar

    Natalie, nice to hear from you. One of the things we really like about the Columbus approach to performance improvement is that it’s something you can implement almost anywhere and it will help a community perform better. At the same time, not everybody will be able to achieve the same levels of performance as Columbus. Housing costs, unemployment, and how much money your city, county, and state are willing to spend are all big factors that you don’t have much control over. But I think that if communities apply some of these approaches, they’ll do better than they’re doing now. Reducing the average length of homeless episodes from 120 days to 100 days is as impressive and meaningful as going from 60 to 50 or from 30 to 25.

    Also, I like your transitional housing program a lot. We’re starting to see it in a few places. It’s often called “Transition in Place” for obvious reasons, and it’s something that you’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future. Congrats on being ahead of the curve.

  5. John Young, Homeless Advocate

    This is for ALL PARENTS who are affraid of losing their children due to homelessness. With our current economic conditions in our Country, it is NO LONGER A CRIME to be homeless. If you are taking care of your children the best you can and it does not matter if you do not have water or electricity, living in your car, on the streets or in wooded areas. Authorities can no longer take your children just because you are homeless.
    All of our social workers in Florida are aware of this.
    I am a homeless Advocate with 20 years of experience and if you are having problems in your area of the country I suggest that you contact your local community legal services or the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, DC.
    God bless to all