Posts Tagged ‘Rapid Re-Housing’
A few weeks ago, my colleague, Kim Walker announced our new series of our Rapid Re-housing Training Modules, short, narrated presentations about different aspects of rapid re-housing. She also announced the release of the first of the modules on Housing Barriers Assessment. As Kim mentioned, the Alliance wants to provide information about best practices in a variety of ways. Since we all have different learning styles, some of us need short “snippets” of information on a particular part of a topic rather than the whole shebang at one time. And, for most of us, just doing our work keeps us so incredibly busy that is hard to find time to stay on top of what’s out there.
This week we are releasing the second short, narrated module of our rapid re-housing series, Housing Search, Location and Landlords Module, which I have the privilege of narrating. I love talking about this stuff because there are so many ideas and ways to make this work. Without landlords, we won’t have housing for our folks. I have included a lot of different tools and ideas to recruit landlords that we have learned from communities who have had a lot of success in building landlord partnerships. In addition, this module includes two activities for you to begin developing your own plan to partner with landlords and incentives to increase landlord participation. These activities are ones we use when doing our in-person rapid rehousing trainings and are good for those of you who learn by doing. If you have plenty of time on your hands and want to learn even more, a longer training module, Strategies for Working with Landlords and Finding Housing for Clients, also is available on our website.
Keep an eye out for the third topic on designing a subsidy, which will be released in the coming weeks. Again, these modules are great for people who are new to rapid re-housing and who want to begin to understand the basic concepts, as well as for those who would like to brush up on specific topics. As usual, let us know how you feel about these new modules, and if you’d like to see more on other topics!
At the Alliance, we’re always looking for ways to help people learn more about best practices as quickly as possible. We know that the more good information you have at your disposal, the more likely it is that you’ll be able you are to get results in your communities when it comes to adopting strategies that really work. However, we also realize that, as providers in the field, you don’t always have the time or energy to read through long reports or other documents to get to the good stuff. Rapid re-housing is a great and very important strategy, and though we already have in-depth guides, online trainings, webinars, and PowerPoints to teach you about it, we also wanted to provide you with something short, sweet, and to the point. That’s why we’ve begun developing and releasing our Rapid Re-housing Training Modules, which are 10-15 minute narrated PowerPoints on the most important elements of a successful rapid re-housing program: a housing barriers assessment process, housing location and developing landlord relationships, subsidies, voluntary service provision, and outcome measurement. We introduced the first of these modules on housing barriers assessment last week (narrated by yours truly), and will be releasing the next four over the coming weeks. Included with the slides are some interactive activities we’ve used when doing in-person rapid re-housing trainings, for those of you who learn best by doing. The modules are great for people that are new to rapid re-housing who want to begin to understand the basic concepts, as well as those who would like to brush up on specific topics. As usual, let us know how you feel about these new modules, and if you’d like to see more on other topics!
Today’s guest blog comes from Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Alliance.
Since the early 1980s, America has been turning away from homeless veterans. When widespread homelessness emerged, veterans who had served in Vietnam or in the years after were already overrepresented among homeless people. Instead of an outcry and demand for an immediate solution, however, there was hand wringing, a few programs, but mostly no response.
As a boy, I grew up watching the Vietnam war and public reaction to the war on TV. I was 18 when the last ten Marines were helicoptered off the roof of the embassy in Saigon in early 1975.
What I remember most is the anger and hatred between Americans, and especially toward the young men a few years older than me – men I admired and looked up to growing up and entering adulthood, every one of whom had to make a hard decision about how to deal with the war.
Some young men went to Vietnam and did everything they could to keep their colleagues safe from harm, risking their own lives on a daily basis. Many more went and did their jobs more or less efficiently, with enthusiasm or indifference or loathing. Some went and thought only about staying out of harm’s way.
Regardless of their actions, what all of them faced upon returning was something we all know and regret now: protests and criticism and disapproval from people who were sick of the war and thought that the young men and women who had served in the military were part of the problem.
By the 1980s, most Americans wanted to forget Vietnam, and particularly wanted to forget the conflict and anger that we felt toward each other. It turned out to be pretty easy, when faced with homelessness among veterans, to blame it on the war, assume that someone else would take care of it, and turn away.
Thirty years later and we find ourselves in a nearly identical situation – new wars but the same controversy.
And still, the number of homeless veterans from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is going up. Open, widespread outrage over this fact does not appear to be forthcoming. Homelessness among Vietnam veterans grew year after year, well after the war was over; will we see more homeless veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the decades to come?
Will our country turn away from our veterans once again?
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki says no. A year ago he called together a national summit on veteran homelessness, and declared his commitment to end homelessness for veterans in five years.
In the year since his announcement, General Shinseki has proven to people inside and outside VA that the promise was far from empty. Under his leadership, the VA has changed the way they approach veterans homelessness; the department has embraced tested, practical tools like permanent supportive housing, homelessness prevention strategies, and rapid re-housing.
Behind all these changes is one steadfast, unyielding principle: no veteran deserves to be homeless.
We at the Alliance stand with General Shinseki. We know the work that lies ahead, but the time is right. Never before has the promise of an end to veteran homelessness been so within our reach.
We will not make the same mistakes with the new generation of veterans that we did with an earlier generation. This time, we will face the problem squarely, we will not turn away, we will allow our nation’s heroes to return with dignity and to our gratitude. And maybe if we can do that, we can rectify some of those earlier mistakes in the process.
Today’s guest post comes from Alliance research associate Pete Witte: homelessness researcher, urban planner, and brand new dad.
Last week I attended a meeting with the local D.C. chapter of the American Planning Association. Xavier Briggs – urban planner, academic, and current Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget – spoke to the group.
Briggs is most acclaimed for his work on the concept of “geography of opportunity,” the idea that race and class segregation affects the well-being and life potential of people with fewer means. As a former urban planner turned homelessness researcher, Briggs caught my attention when he dropped the h-word into the conversation:
“…and planning for low-income housing and for those who are homeless.”
One of the things that I quickly learned in my post at the Alliance is that there is plenty of overlap between my former role as an urban planner and my current role as a homelessness researcher. Namely, I still spend my time asking one central question: what does it mean to improve our communities?
As an urban planner, that meant considering the best way to incentivize “green space,” or deciphering what the zoning code had to say about “FAR,” pondering what it meant to “rethink the auto” and encourage “TOD.”
As a homelessness researcher, it means new and different things.
I’ve learned that one way to improve communities would be to increase the amount of permanent supportive housing options for persons who are chronically homeless. We could also rapidly re-house individuals who, under incredibly difficult circumstances, have lost their home. We could make small changes that could better our homelessness system – by creating a central point of contact, coordinating services, and targeting homelessness prevention programs.
As an urban planner, I often thought about what it meant to improve our communities. I rarely thought about what it meant to end homelessness or what ending homelessness might look like. Today, I still identify as an urban planner, only now I think about community improvement in at least one more significant and important way: through ending homelessness.
A while back, the Alliance released the third Quarterly Leadership Council HPRP Report.
This report – like the two before it – illustrates how 13 cities across the nation are implementing the HPRP. Data from the following cities are included in this quarterly report:
- Chicago, IL
- Columbus and Franklin County, OH
- Denver, CO
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami-Dade, FL
- Minneapolis and Hennepin County, MN
- New Orleans, LA
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle and King County, WA
- Washington, DC.
Overall, the cities have spent $28.4 million (through June 2010) on homelessness prevention for 57,220 people at risk of homelessness and $12.5 million to rapidly re-house 35,135 people experiencing homelessness.
Of the over 92,000 people have been served by rapid re-housing and prevention programs in the Leadership Council cities, 45,205 people have exited to permanent housing. This includes at least 18,033 who have exited from prevention programs and at least 27,172 who exited from rapid re-housing programs.
The report highlights spending by strategy (prevention and rapid re-housing), by categories of those strategies (financial assistance, case management, outreach and engagement, motel vouchers, rental assistance, etc.), and by city. Both Washington, DC and Miami, FL have spent almost 75 percent of their prevention allocations. Minneapolis and Los Angeles are unique among the cities in having served more persons with rapid re-housing resources than with prevention resources.
The Alliance has done a great deal of work around the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and continues to examine the strategies and results of the program. Only be examining the performance, outcomes, and data of the program can we determine if we are indeed making progress toward ending homelessness.
For more information, please check out our website or leave us a comment here!
Our friend Lornet Turnbull wrote a touching story about refugees facing homelessness in the United States. The piece highlighted the struggles of refugee families fleeing conflict areas across the world only to experience homelessness in the United States. Not only do they face the often-complicated homeless support system, they face language and cultural obstacles as well.
Merrill Balassone of McClatchy Newspapers reported more sobering news – that people experiencing homelessness and increasingly targets of crime. According to the story, “new data show homeless people nationwide were singled out in more than 1,000 attacked over the last 11 years by perpetrators motivated by anti-homeless hostility”. There is some movement (as reported in the New York Times last year and seen on change.org now) to categorize violence against people experiencing homelessness as a hate crime.
And we can’t forget about HPRP, especially not with Congress about to come back into session. The federal prevention and rapid re-housing program is still being implemented in communities across the country. And while there are reports of challenges in performance and outreach (like in Texas), there are more and more success stories everyday.
In fact, the Journal Sentinel shared a story just last week about a Harvard study that examined the effect stimulus dollars were having on evictions in Milwaukee County. The study concluded that homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing stimulus dollars had contributed to a 15 percent decrease in evictions.
From the article: “For some people, one month’s rent – often $300 or $400 – can be enough to bridge the gap for people between jobs or health emergencies…It’s a lot cheaper to prevent homelessness than to shelter a family, which is far more costly and disruptive.”
This week’s news has been full of reports about families in need overwhelming shelter systems. From Baltimore, MD to Springfield, MA, to LaPorte, IN, we’ve seen articles all week about homeless shelters “bursting” with people. Stories about an increase in the number of homeless children and families seem to be the news item of the week.
Shelter programs are struggling to accommodate more families in their existing programs. When they can’t, families are left to fend for themselves. They beg family and friends to let them stay for just one more night, they find well-lit places like train stations or hospital waiting rooms and try to look like they belong, they find retreat in abandoned buildings or quiet corners of parks where their children can rest.
Of course, shelters never want to turn away families in need. They work hard to find church basements that might serve as overflow shelter or to come up with the resources to pay for motel rooms to increase their capacity to serve families. While offering a temporary refuge, homeless providers recognize that overflow shelters and motels cannot provide families the security they need.
But are all the tools that can help shelter programs serve families better being put to use?
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was created to curb the expected surge of families experiencing housing crises and homelessness as a result of the recession. It provides flexible resources so that the very families most likely to enter shelter can be stabilized in their own housing instead. It is designed to alleviate the strain on shelter programs so they do not have to turn families away without a place to go. Unfortunately, HPRP is not being fully utilized to assist families with the greatest needs.
Utilizing HPRP resources to rapidly re-house families experiencing homelessness can reduce the strain on shelters – and, in the process – provide permanent housing for vulnerable families.
Too many communities are reluctant to assist families residing in shelter with rapid re-housing. They are serving only a small fraction of the families in shelter because they are concerned that some families will not be able to maintain the housing long-term. They fear that the rental assistance and case management resources available will not be sufficient to allow families to succeed. So HPRP resources are not being mobilized to rapidly re-house families. And shelters are left to struggle the best they can to accommodate families with their own program resources. When all options are depleted, families are turned away and left to fend for themselves.
The fear that families will fail is causing communities to fail these families.
Rapid re-housing emerged in communities like Hennepin County, Minnesota so that families would not be turned away from shelter. Because rapid re-housing techniques allow families to exit shelter quicker, the same number of shelter beds can serve more families. And, more importantly, the families served by rapid re-housing have access to the help they want most of all – assistance getting back into housing.
And rapid re-housing programs do work. Very few families who are placed into housing have a second shelter stay, even during this recession.
We need to make sure that the full array of tools available to respond to housing crises are being put to use so that being turned away without shelter becomes a rare event for families instead of an increasingly common one. Shelter providers critically examine how their community’s HPRP resources are being used and insist that HPRP resources are offered to help families in their shelter programs move back into housing.
Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.
With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and – most importantly – the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.
This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).
Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prevention programs screening out those families most likely to become homeless because they seem unable to pay for housing independently after receiving assistance? Are rapid re-housing programs implemented broadly enough to reduce the strain on shelters and transitional housing programs and reduce the likelihood that families will be refused shelter? Are local programs coordinated around a common vision for ending family homelessness to improve access and efficiency of resources community-wide? Are stakeholders engaged in evaluating data to assess the impact of the local investments in ending homelessness and making modifications to improve performance?
Our new report Ending Family Homelessness: Lessons From Communities examines the promising strategies communities are using to end family homelessness by making the most of available resources. These promising strategies can be replicated, adapted, and refined to improve our communities’ and our nation’s responses to families facing homelessness.
For more information about family homelessness, check out the website.
Don’t forget guys, the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund is an effective, efficient program that plays a significiant role in preventing and ending family homelessness. Act now to keep it from disappearing forever.
So it’s all over.
The 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness is behind us.
And – even from a non-expert standpoint – I have to say that it was a pretty incredible experience. From the industry luminaries that graced the stage at plenary sessions to the incredible workshop speakers to the [really outstanding] hotel staff, I really felt that the last three days were both educational and inspiring.
Alliance staff are all encouraged to attend [and staff] workshops, so I had the opportunity to learn about a lot of things that I don’t encounter in my communication-and-social-media-days in the office. I learned about the role rapid re-housing can play in the life of domestic violence survivors, I learned about the implications of the HEARTH Act in ending family homelessness, I learned how much interest there was in communications and social media, and I learned a lot – a ton! – about the federal plan to end homelessness and HPRP.
I learned a lot about people! Our field is full of such wonderfully different, quirky, and committed practitioners and advocates! Walking around with an Alliance nametag gave me an avenue to introduce myself to folks – and every time I turned around I had the opportunity to meet direct service providers, advocates, government employees, and real, true experts in the field. And every so often (I think I mentioned this before), I got a chance to meet Twitter friends and Facebook buds that I had chatted with online but not in life – and that was an exciting if surreal experience.
But most of all – cue the violins – I got to learn about ending homelessness. It’s a tough concept to wrap my mind around – ending homelessness. Even as a dedicated employee of the Alliance, it can still be hard for me to really visualize a time without any individuals or families in shelter or on the streets.
The conference righted all of that. After hearing from Nan, from Secretary Shaun Donovan, from Barbara Poppe, from Secretary Eric Shinseki, from Delegate Charniele Herring – and all the experts in workshops in between – over and over and over again, the message rang through.
Not only is ending homelessness possible – we’re doing it right now. With the reform of health care, with the implementation of HPRP, with the provisions in the HEARTH Act, with the outlines in the federal plan. With an investment in housing, with an eye towards infrastructure, with best practices and good policy, and with the hard work and dedication of every single person who attended this year’s conference, we are ending homelessness as we speak (or rather, I type).
It’s a message that lifted my spirits and reminded me of what our common mission is, what brings us together year after year.
I hope it did for you too.
Can homeless assistance be dramatically improved in a time of crisis?
Nine years ago, the Alliance launched A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years which charted a course for ending homelessness in the United States. The central idea, grossly simplified, is this:
As a nation, we do a lot to address homelessness—build shelters, distribute food and blankets and the like. What we don’t do is prevent homelessness or help people exit homelessness.
Since then, the Alliance has been working on changing policies and programs to focus more on prevention and re-housing.
Right now, we spend a lot on shelters and other emergency homelessness programs. And any effort to shift to a more prevention and solution-based approach could divert resources away from these existing shelters and programs. It’s a great idea in theory, but one that will take time and patience and there are people that need shelter tonight, and it’s pretty cruel to take that away, even if there’s a long-term benefit.
So progress has been slow.
And there’s a big barrier to making this change – money.
In the spring, Congress passed an economic stimulus bill that included a $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). One and a half billion isn’t a lot compared to the size of the stimulus, but it’s a lot for homeless assistance. And what’s important is that HPRP will fund rental assistance, housing search assistance, and other activities that prevent homelessness or help homeless people quickly move into permanent housing.
Many communities are using HPRP to transform their homeless assistance programs.
For example, here’s an excerpt from Dayton, Ohio’s HPRP plan, “The City, working with Montgomery County, will use these funds to begin the transformation of our system from an emphasis on sheltering to an emphasis on prevention and rapid re-housing.” Michigan is distributing HPRP funds to local nonprofits who can demonstrate …”how these funds will be used to transform your current homeless delivery process to reflect your community’s commitment to end homelessness in 10 years.”
It’s too bad that it took a crisis of this magnitude, but the investment in prevention and re-housing is a very big deal. We will hopefully use this opportunity to transform homeless assistance, putting us on a path to ending homelessness for good.