Posts Tagged ‘Housing First’
Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, penned this piece on Housing First for FEANTSA (the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) which is an umbrella of not-for-profit organisations which participate in or contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe.
What Is Housing First?
Housing First is an approach that is built on the principle that a short experience of homelessness and rapid stabilization in housing are best for homeless people and most effective in ending homelessness. Housing First places homeless people in housing quickly and then provides or links them to services as needed, rather than the more customary approach of services first, then housing. While not assuming that housing is sufficient to solve all the problems that people have, Housing First does assume that housing is a necessary platform for success in services, education, employment, and health: in short for achieving personal and family well-being. It also has the benefit of being consumer-driven: housing is what homeless people want and seek.
The Housing First approach focuses on a few critical elements.
- There is a focus on helping individuals and families access housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited (it is not shelter, transitional housing, etc.).
- While some crisis resolution and housing search services might be delivered in the process of obtaining housing, core services to promote well-being and housing stability (treatment, education, child development, etc.) are primarily delivered following housing placement.
- The nature and duration of services depend upon individual need and services are voluntary.
- Housing is not contingent on compliance with services; however consumers must typically comply with standard requirements of tenancy (paying the rent, etc.).
Housing First has most often been used to describe an approach for assisting homeless people with serious mental health and substance abuse disorders. In this context it has been contrasted with a “housing readiness” approach in which people are required to achieve sobriety or treatment compliance as a pre-condition of receiving housing. However, the principle of Housing First is also applicable to people with less significant or more temporary problems, such as families or individuals who are homeless for economic reasons. Typically such people are temporarily housed in shelters or transitional housing, often at relatively high cost and for relatively long periods of time (up to two years), while they receive services that will make them “ready” for housing. However, an increased focus on housing placement, even with relatively small amounts of housing subsidy and linkage to community-based services, is a more effective strategy with a lower cost for this population as well.
What Does a Housing First Approach Entail?
While there is a wide variety of program models, Housing First programs or systems typically include the following activities.
Assessment and Targeting
Individuals and families receive an in-depth, up-front assessment before being referred to or receiving services from a Housing First provider. This allows providers to ascertain both the needs of the consumer, and whether the available program(s) can meet those needs. The level of assistance programs are able to provide most often shapes who a community can target for Housing First services.
Evidence indicates Housing First is appropriate for most, if not all, homeless people. The combination of housing linked to services can help a wide variety of people exit homelessness more rapidly. This is supported by research that demonstrates that most formerly homeless families, including those with significant challenges, will retain housing with the provision of a long-term housing subsidy. It is also supported by evaluations of Housing First interventions with chronically homeless individuals, which have found that many who have remained outside of housing for years can retain housing with a subsidy and provision of wraparound supports. Finally, it is supported by emerging research that lower-need individuals and families who become homeless can exit homelessness rapidly and avoid repeat episodes with even small amounts of housing subsidy and linkage to community services.
There is substantial variation in how Housing First providers meet the housing needs of the individuals and families they serve.
- Some Housing First programs provide only minimal financial assistance, such as assistance with security deposits and application fees. Other programs are able to provide or access longer term or permanent housing subsidy.
- Some Housing First programs rely solely on apartments in the private rental market. Others master-lease apartments that they then sub-let to program participants, or purchase or develop housing themselves for sub-lease to participants.
- There are models in which the Housing First program is the legal lease holder for some initial period of time in which the individual or family is involved with the program. When program services end, the tenant takes over the lease. In other program models, the family or individual holds a lease with a public or private landlord from the onset.
To get people housed, Housing First programs have to help people overcome barriers to accessing permanent housing. This includes helping them to resolve outstanding credit issues, address poor tenant histories, collect needed paperwork, etc. It also involves actively helping them identify housing by reaching out to landlords, housing management companies, public housing authorities, civic organizations, and religious congregations.
To gain access to scarce housing units, Housing First programs must be responsive to the concerns of landlords, housing operators, and developers. Strategies include giving landlords 24/7 access to program staff to address tenant problems; provision of enhanced security deposits; and commitment to quickly re-locate tenants who are in violation of the lease. Some landlords end up prioritizing Housing First tenants because of the financial and administrative benefit they realize from the partnership with Housing First organizations.
All Housing First providers focus on helping individuals and families move into permanent housing as quickly as possible, based on the premise that social service needs can best be addressed after they move in to their new home.
Low, Moderate or High Intensity Supportive Services
The services provided to Housing First participants vary according to need. Sometimes Housing First programs assist only with crisis intervention and re-housing, and then link the new tenants to services in the community. On the other end of the spectrum, those tenants with more intensive and chronic problems may require long-term, housing-based services. The goal is to provide just enough services to ensure successful tenancy and promote the economic and social well-being of individuals and families. The capacity of programs to provide supportive services following a housing placement is largely determined by, and determines, who is targeted for Housing First services.
Determining the effectiveness of Housing First programs relies on capturing outcome data. Among the primary outcomes that should be assessed in a Housing First program are individual or family housing outcomes. How rapidly are families being re-housed? Are individuals and families remaining housed? Do families or individuals re-enter shelter?
Programs may want to capture outcomes on family or individual well-being. Programs serving families may include employment and earning outcomes and school performance of children. Programs serving chronically homeless individuals might examine increases or decreases in hospital stays, involvement with law enforcement, or engagement in employment. Cost reduction can also be an important metric.
It is also critical to examine the impact of Housing First in reducing overall homelessness in the community or city. This can be done through regular counts of homeless people. Another possible metric is to assess whether the average length of a homelessness episode is being reduced.
A growing body of research documents the effectiveness of the Housing First approach when used in working with homeless people who have serious behavioral health and other disabilities. This research indicates that the approach is effective both at placing and retaining people in permanent housing and at reducing the costs associated with these individuals within the health care and judicial systems.
Housing First also works for people with less intensive needs. Recent research in the United States demonstrated the high cost of shelter and transitional housing stays for homeless individuals and families, especially relative to the cost of housing. A significant recent U.S. investment in Rapid Re-Housing (a variation on Housing First that does not typically include long term rent subsidy but rather short term infusions to quickly return households to housing) will provide much more information on the efficacy and cost of this intervention for a wider group of homeless people. The Housing First approach, across all populations and categories of need, is clearly having an influence, and communities across the United States are beginning to re-engineer their homeless and mainstream systems to focus on the promotion of housing stability.
Moving forward, we continue to embrace the Housing First approach as one that will help us end homelessness much more rapidly for individuals, families and the nation.
 $1.5 billion over three years for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.
To start, I thought I’d just point out that in this week’s episode of , the song-singing cast decides to donate presents and money to the McKinney Vento Program for Homeless Kids – or some variation of those six words.
So they didn’t get it exactly right, but it was awesome seeing the all-important McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the federal government’s largest investment in homeless assistance, get a shout-out on such a hit show. First Glee – then the world!
In more down-to-earth news, youth homelessness is at it again. There were three stories, an opinion piece in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, a news article from the Associated Press, and a Boston Globe piece (quote our own Nan Roman!) going over the purported rise in youth homelessness across the country. Just last week, we were discussing in the office the ascendancy of this issue in the news media – more evidence that the time is ripe to act on this important topic.
New York is under fire again. A controversial new study evaluating the effects of prevention has reached front page status in the New York Times. I know advocates across the country are feverishly discussing this new study – and whether or not it’s the right thing to do. What do you guys think about the New York study?
Prevention does seem to be doing something in Salt Lake City, UT. Our good friend Julia Lyon at the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a swift little post about the effects of HPRP in her community. Keep up the good work, guys!
And speaking of good work, the federal government is trying to make some strides with homeless veterans. The Navy Times reports that the number of homeless veterans is down 18 percent, and just this week, the VA hosted a meeting about the problem (which our own Nan Roman attended). It seems like all the pieces are in place: political will, financial support, human resources, interagency collaboration. Now it’s time to put it all together.
And finally, a piece about the basics. This week in Affordable Housing Finance, our pal Donna Kimura interviewed Sam Tsemberis, one of the fathers of Housing First. If you have a minute, you should definitely check it out.
And that’s it for the news of the week – have a great weekend!
A great editorial from the New Sentinel in TN about the Housing First approach (don’t know what Housing First is? Check out our blog archives!). Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett threatened to withdraw $50,000 from the county’s Ten Year Plan unless housing units banned alcohol. But, as the editorial thoughtfully points out, “To demand abstinence or psychological treatment before housing is like having your doctor tell you that you can’t have life-saving heart surgery until after you’ve changed your diet and started exercising.” Stable housing is the foundation – the very first step – to recovery of all kinds for people experiencing chronic homelessness. Kudos to the News Sentinel Editorial Board for recognizing this important fact.
You know who else knows this fact? The good people of Bergen County, NJ. In Bergen County, advocates are embracing the Housing First model to help chronically homeless people find permanent housing. Despite barriers – including, as the writer points out, alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, or physical disability (and frequently a combination) – housing is the number one priority for advocates working to end homelessness. And of the 102 homeless people the county has helped house since March 2009, not a single person has ended up back on the street. Hip hip hooray!
A hop, skip, jump away from New Jersey, our friends at Hearth in Boston are working to end elder homelessness – and it’s a good thing, too. According to our demographics brief, elder homelessness will grow by a third in ten years; double by 2050. Between the size of the baby boomer population and the current rate of elder homelessness, we’re looking at an impending crisis. Hearth can’t do it alone – we’ve all got to do our part.
And finally: the illustrious Rosanne Haggerty! The brains behind Common Ground New York and the new 100,000 Homes Campaign (and MacArthur Fellowship recipient!) shares with the Alliance her vision for ending homelessness in this month’s Take Five! interview. Take a minute to check it out!
What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
One issue with large potential impact is that more communities are using data to redesign their response to homelessness. Communities with the most information on who is homeless are in the best position to help people out of homelessness. Better data means being able to use mainstream programs more effectively— for instance, if we know who exactly is a veteran, or who qualifies for senior housing, our options for housing those people expand significantly. Along with many partners, we recently launched the 100,000 Homes Campaign to help communities across the country identify, house and support their most vulnerable homeless residents. Participating means having help in gathering person-specific data on who is homeless and in the most fragile health; creating a successful housing placement system; and being part of and learning from a network of others working collectively to house 100,000 vulnerable people by July 2013.
What issue in homelessness policy should everyone be reminded of?
I think many of us were inspired after Hurricane Katrina when over 80,000 people took to craigslist to offer housing to those made homeless by the storm. It jolted me into realizing that people naturally take care of each other in moments of crisis. The homeless never forget that homelessness is an urgent problem, but I think the rest of us often do.
The 100,000 Homes Campaign recaptures this sense of urgency by bringing individuals face to face with the homeless in their communities. It gives people a chance to respond directly and immediately to the task of moving people out of homelessness and into stable homes. The Campaign helps communities to make the best use of all their resources, including drawing on community members to play an expanded role in providing housing and support for vulnerable people. Government resources are critical, but there is a great deal of untapped capacity among community residents and institutions that can be put to use getting more people housed.
How did you start working about the field of homelessness (or housing)?
My first job out of college was as a full time volunteer at a shelter for homeless and runaway kids. There was a great staff, and the organization had the best of intentions, but over and over, the same kids came in for a few weeks, were discharged to the street, and returned a few weeks later to start the cycle again. It was clear that we weren’t having much of an impact. In talking to the young people I worked with, while they needed every type of service, it was obvious that nothing else would stick if they didn’t have stable homes. That’s what convinced me to focus on affordable housing and to go to work for a not for profit developer.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Growing up, my parents took us to church in downtown Hartford, CT. It was an unusual congregation: just us, a few other families and several elderly residents of Hartford’s downtown SRO hotels. My parents befriended them, and they became part of our extended family. They came to our house in the suburbs every holiday, and we’d visit them if they were sick or to deliver food. We saw how important SROs and rooming houses were as housing for poor people without families.
My parent’s example of taking personal responsibility for people who had very little and seeing that they never lost their housing reminds me of our tendency to overcomplicate homelessness. We assume that it’s the job of not for profits or government agencies to handle the issue, and we forget that it’s actually the most natural thing in the world to help the people around us if we know what they need. We tend not to take into account the capacity and willingness of citizens to help end homelessness in their communities. This is why the Campaign has potential for shifting our mindsets; it draws on the energy and concern of ordinary people to become vital resources for ending homelessness in their communities.
Why do you think ending homelessness is possible?
When “homelessness” is not abstract, when it has a name and a face, it is less overwhelming and more solvable. We observe that as the Campaign helps more and more communities learn who the homeless are and discover the other dimensions of their lives— that they are elderly, or veterans, or grew up in foster care, or have cancer— they view their resources differently and realize they can draw on mainstream programs for solutions. There’s something about focusing on individual people that restores a sense of urgency to homelessness and gets us focused on solutions.
To see this profile – plus other profiles of leaders in the homeless assistance field, please visit our website and check out past Take Five! Expert Q & As.
So after tipping my hat to the 100,000 Homes Campaign for featuring our interactive tools and maps on their (awesome!) blog, I did a little tooling around to remind myself of other really useful tools on our very own website!
The Alliance has, for almost 30 years, lead the campaign to end homelessness in the United States. And over the decades, we’ve accumulated the data, best practices, and effective strategies necessary to end homelessness.
And we’re hoping to share them with you!
After checking out our most visited pages and most popular tools, we’ve compiled a list of ten things – links, pages, reports – you need in order to end homelessness in your community (read: really great tools and info). And, just for good measure, I’ve tossed in a couple not-so-popular but ever-so-useful links as well.
- The Interactive Tools and Solutions section.
HRI produces a number of charts, tools, and maps to help you better understand homelessness. Some of the more recent tools illustrate the number of doubled-up households in the United States, HPRP spending per household in the cities we’re tracking, and reductions in point-in-time counts necessary to meet the goals outlined in the federal strategic plan to end homelessness.
- The (new!) HPRP Youth Profile series
If you feel like youth homelessness has broken the media barrier, I’d agree with you. Youth homelessness is getting noticed as, as ending youth homelessness is one of our 2010 Policy Priorities, we’ve had our eyes out. This series highlights how some communities are effectively using federal HPRP dollars to service this vulnerable population.
- Our Issues Sections.
So you’re feeling ready to go a little deeper? We go over the major topics we study at the Alliance. You’ll get an overview of chronic, family, veterans, and youth homelessness. We also go over rural homelessness, domestic violence, mental and physical health, and re-entry issues.
- Check out the Solutions.
Don’t forget: we don’t just study homelessness – we’re about ending it. In this section, we show you how. We go over the best practices and effective policies necessary to end all types of homelessness. Among then is the Alliance-championed Ten Year Plan, as well as the [also Alliance-championed] Housing First principle. We also include information about prevention and rapid re-housing, including the President’s stimulus-funded, Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.
- The new Training section
Our capacity building team has really been making waves! They’re working on serious, on the ground issues with local communities to help them implement the best methods to end homelessness in their communities. They’ve also launched a great Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy), helping people prepare for the changes that’ll take effect next year. If you’re a provider, this is the section for you!
- Local Progress
Here we post on-the-ground examples of real, live plans put into practice. And, as you can imagine, those plans yielded some quantifiable results! We’ve posted snapshots from San Francisco, New York City, Denver, Chicago, Columbus, and other communities. Is your community among these snapshots??
- The 2011 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness website
It’s new and improved and waiting for you! Registration has opened and we’ve already received applications – are you one of them? This year’s conference is in sunny Oakland, California and we can’t wait to see you there!
- And one more for good measure: the homepage.
Find out about the latest policy updates, reports, documents, campaigns, events, and news. And what’s most important (read to me?) This is where you can connect with us.I know you’re already here (on the blog) but are you connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter? If you aren’t, you should! Our social networks are a great way to connect with us online, meet our experts and advocates, and learn (up-to-the-minute) what’s happening in our office and the field of homelessness. We talk with our friends, trade notes, links, and resources, and chat about emerging issues and upcoming innovations.
Our good friends Rosanne Haggerty of Common Ground in New York and Martha Kegel of UNITY in New Orleans authored a fantastic piece in defense of supportive housing. A proposed project in New Orleans – a city still suffering the effects of a hurricane five years past – would redevelop an abandoned nursing home into supportive housing for people with disabilities and low-income working people is facing opposition from the local community. Rosanne and Martha do such a great job articulating the argument, I’ll let them speak for themselves:
“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, but it is bad for a community in many other ways as well. By converting abandoned buildings into beautifully renovated apartments, supportive housing offers an opportunity to help solve several of New Orleans’ pressing problems at once. Housing the homeless is good for everyone.”
In other news: Massachusetts is kicking butt in implementing and executing their plan to end homelessness; the state has helped place 376 people in housing and has helped prevent almost 11,000 families from becoming homeless through a Housing First model. Even as the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance reports the numbers of new families and individuals seeking help continues to grow in the area, Boston’s Pine St. Inn claims to have eliminated 10 percent of their shelter beds due to successful housing placements – at an estimated savings of $9,000 per person. Way to go, MA!
A news bit: New York is getting its first government-certified residence for homeless women veterans and its sounds like a fantastic project.
And in news close to home (well, not geographically…) Our reporter friend Julia Lyon of The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week that homelessness among Utah’s school age children has jumped 48 percent since 2008. This is truly troubling, given what we know about the serious risks for young people experiencing homelessness. Living in shelters or on the streets, unaccompanied homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical and sexual assault or abuse and physical illness than their adult counterparts. Also, young people are at a higher risk for anxiety disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide because of increased exposure to violence while living on their own.
Troubling, indeed. What can I do to help, you ask? We have good news for you! We just launched a campaign to bring attention to this issue and encourage Congress to increase funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs. Get involved by telling us you’re interested – email Amanda Krusemark of our grassroots mobilizing team and she’ll get you started!
Today’s guest post is the next – and last! – installment of our Nebraska series from Kim Walker of our Center for Capacity Building. For more about the Center for Capacity Building and the services they offer, check on the Training section of our website.
Believe it or not, our time in Lincoln is at an end!
This last visited was from September 29 – October 1. The bulk of this last visit was a presentation to the larger Lincoln community, particularly targeting those whose work touches homeless individuals and have not been present for our meetings thus far. It’s about rallying community support and understanding that in order to make big change, we have to all be willing to invest in that change.
For our piece, we’ll review the process we’ve gone through with the Lincoln Homeless Coalition, including the data we collected through our survey and data analysis. Then we’ll turn things over to the Coalition members, who will talk in-depth about each of the goals they have for Lincoln’s system and invite the audience to become involved. This is where, if all goes well, we’ll see our hard work turn to into collective action as the larger community takes ownership of the work ahead.
In addition to presenting, we’ll be visiting the Coalition’s Project Homeless Connect event. Like other communities across the country, Lincoln puts on this one-day event that brings together different service providers to give the homeless individuals in the area a temporary one-stop shop to get as many of their needs as possible addressed. Our friend Erin Anderson at Lincoln’s own Journal Star has written about the event.
While we’re wrapping things up, though, we’ll also need to be looking forward. Though this may be our last physical visit to the city, we’ll be discussing how we can help them over the coming months, whether that’s with conference calls, collecting data to check their progress, or connecting them with other communities doing similar work.
As the great Ted Kennedy once said, “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” We’re ending homelessness one community at a time!
I am going to start off with the good news first because I know the East coast has had a rough week! We at the Alliance got a little recognition today for our work helping the The Lincoln Homeless Coalition revamp the way they serve homeless families. Which, faithful reader, you already know all about from this blog. So kudos to our CAP team! (Want the CAP team in your community? Check out the website.)
Working at the Alliance may make me biased but I was convinced even more this week about the importance of homelessness research. In order to effectively solve a problem, we must first fully understand it. And the research can be hard to swallow – like this report from Toronto – which indicates that homeless youth, particularly lesbian and bisexual women and young people of color, are overwhelmingly victims of crime. Why on earth would anyone victimize a homeless kid?
But with every cloud comes a silver lining. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has urged members of the Senate to designate these kind of violent attacks against people experiencing homelessness as hate crimes. This act, the “Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act,” would lead to stiffer penalties for perpetrators and mandate the collection of data on this problem – which hopefully will lead to better solutions. All this because of reports that violent attacks of this nature have been on the rise here in the United States. See how important data can be??
Speaking of research, despite overwhelming evidence and countless case studies, some people are still apprehensive about Housing First programs. Nashville has struggled with this, as well as New Orleans, this time against units that would provide permanent supportive housing. Admittedly, it’s not a popular strategy, especially for community members. But it’s one that has repeatedly demonstrated success – and it’s the best strategy we know to effectively end homelessness. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Finally, the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) expired yesterday. The New York Times profiled a community in Tennessee that expects to be hit hard by this loss, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities rounded up how some states will feel the burn. This is disappointing news, but now is not the time to throw in the towel!
We know that our supporters are committed to ending homelessness – roadblocks or no roadblocks! You can still make an impact – call your senators and speak to the housing staffer. Tell them their boss should commit to restoring TANF ECF and capitalizing the Trust Fund this year. Let us know in the comments how it goes! (Find you Senators’ phone number through the congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121.)
There is a lot of good news that came out this week, especially from The Coloradoan. They had two articles this week, the first, a great defense of Housing First and homelessness prevention, called, “A radical idea: Ending homelessness”. The second was about Denver’s successful efforts to prevent homelessness by keeping 2,500 families in homes.
We take the bad with the good, though. From the Las Vegas Sun, we hear about how Las Vegas, an area where homelessness has been unfortunately increasing over the last few years, is struggling to get enough federal funding to help combat their growing problem.
From Journal Standard, we read a great personal story about how HPRP funds helped one family stay together and in a home.
Finally, Kathleen Pender of the San Francisco Chronicle told us about how the federal government is allocating funds not just to help homeowners, but the renters who are often at a higher risk of homelessness.
This is my last Friday news roundup at the Alliance. I’ve been really inspired by all the fantastic work that’s happening, both locally and at the federal level, and I’m so glad I got to help spread the word. Hearing stories from community across the country has made me believe that ending homelessness really is possible.
Catherine’s back at the helm of the About Homelessness blog and soon she’ll be joined by a NEW new media intern. Thanks for reading!
Memorial Day brought some attention to veterans experiencing homelessness. An in-depth piece from the Arizona Star takes a look at the divide between the VA’s plan to end homelessness within 5 years and the attitudes of some vets who are chronically homeless.
Change.org’s Poverty in America blog features Swords and Plowshares, a facility that combines housing and services to get former soldiers back on their feet.
The Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Deborah DeSantis shares a recent report that shows there are three times more mentally ill people in jail than in hospitals. The solution is not only humane, but cost-effective: Permanent Supportive Housing.
Speaking of cost-effectiveness, the Providence Journal discussed the benefits of the Housing First model by telling the story of Bill Victoria, who was homeless for 30 years before finally finding stable housing: “I thought I’d be homeless forever,” he says.
About the Housing First approach, Eric Hirsch, a sociology professor at Providence College, says:
It’s definitely cost-effective, especially for people who have been homeless for a long time. This is how you end homelessness.