HHS/ASPE. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.Background

ASPE RESEARCH BRIEF

Human Services and Housing Supports to Address Family Homelessness:
Promising Practices in the Field

November 2011

This Research Brief is available on the Internet at:
http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/11/FamilyHomelessness/rb.shtml

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About This Research Brief
This ASPE Research Brief explores local programs for linking human services and housing supports to prevent and end family homelessness.  The Research Brief is based on interviews with stakeholders in 14 communities nationwide, highlighting key practices that facilitated the implementation and ongoing sustainability of the programs.  The Research Brief was prepared by Abt Associates under contract with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Contents

References

Background

Recent reports have brought national attention to the prevalence of family homelessness[i] and the need to coordinate across all levels of government to prevent and end family homelessness.  In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), the sixth in a series of annual reports on the extent and nature of homelessness nationwide. The report documents a 29 percent increase in sheltered family homelessness between 2007 and 2010.  Today, an estimated 168,000 families — representing 567,000 persons in families — use an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program at some point during the year.  The toll of homelessness on children living with their families is troubling.  Homelessness can adversely affect children’s mental health and behavior, school attendance and educational achievement, cognitive and motor development, and general health.[ii]

A year prior to the 2010 AHAR release, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors:  The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.The plan sets an ambitious agenda for addressing homelessness, stresses governmental collaboration at all levels, and encourages using programs targeted to homeless families (as well as other homeless subpopulations) and mainstream resources to help families achieve housing stability.

The growing concern about family homelessness has renewed the focus among policymakers, researchers, advocates, and practitioners on the use of mainstream programs to prevent and end homelessness. The underlying belief is that programs explicitly for homeless people cannot be expected to do the whole job of preventing and ending family homelessness. Indeed, ever since the start of specialized federal funding for homeless people,[iii] it has been recognized that mainstream programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provide much greater resources than targeted programs for helping families leave homelessness.

It is within this context that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) commissioned a study that focuses on local programs that link human services with housing supports to prevent and end family homelessness.  (The Department is also engaged in a similar study that focuses on homeless individuals.) The primary goal of the study is to identify promising practices that facilitated the development, implementation, and sustainability of these programs.

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Summary of Findings

This research brief presents an overview of promising practices that were features of these programs:

  1. Creating a logical program structure with services tied directly to goals.  The programs in the study developed structures with: a) objectives that were within reach of the target population, b) service interventions that were tailored to the target population, and c) partners that were best suited to provide those services.
  2. Developing lasting partnerships.  Programs that laid a solid foundation for future collaborations were built on three pillars: a) program missions that advanced the goals of each partner, b) deliberate coordination processes that fostered accountability, and c) capitalizing on established collaborative environments.
  3. Utilizing nontraditional community resources.  The constellation of partners went beyond the traditional network of social service providers and government agencies, demonstrating that thinking creatively when looking for partners can add value to the service interventions.
  4. Forging relationships between program staff and local landlords to increase housing options.  The relationships among case managers, housing specialists, and local landlords were designed to be mutually beneficial: case managers and housing specialists were able to place homeless families into decent affordable housing, and landlords were reassured by the ongoing program support offered to tenants and by the promise of a stable source of rent.
  5. Using case managers to link human services and housing supports.  Case managers served as the focal point for linking services and housing supports, and the strongest linkages were created intentionally by staff, informed by a thorough assessment of client needs, and intensive — meeting purposefully and frequently.
  6. Tapping a breadth of funding sources.  Communities used a diverse patchwork of funding streams to support their programs, and most had a decentralized funding model in which each organization used its own funding resources to participate in the program.
  7. Using standardized intake and assessment forms and data-sharing systems to improve program operations.  Many programs used standardized client intake and assessment tools which streamlined program operations, eliminated duplicative assessments, improved service delivery, and provided common metrics for gauging progress.

The brief also describes three practices that are specific to the participation of local public housing agencies (PHAs) that administer federal housing assistance:

  1. Developing a “continuum of housing” that uses locally funded housing supports as a gateway to federal supports.  Several programs in the study partnered with their local public housing agency to develop a continuum of housing that provided temporary or transitional housing assistance to homeless families with integrated case management services until the families transitioned to a permanent housing opportunity — e.g., HUD’s HCV program or public housing developments.
  2. Streamlining the PHA lease-up process (i.e., identifying, inspecting, and renting an appropriate housing unit) through a review and retooling of PHA administrative procedures and using program partners for some housing functions.  The most common strategy was to utilize program partners, most often case managers, to assist with program applications, housing search, and unit inspection activities.
  3. Creating supportive housing environments by integrating intensive case management and services with mainstream housing supports, allowing mainstream housing programs to be used by families with high barriers to housing. The housing subsidy was typically a tenant- or project-based voucher, public housing, or tax credit unit, and the services were supported by intensive, structured case management.

These practices appear to have facilitated the development, implementation and sustainability of the programs.  However, the study did not include a research design that allowed assessment of the effects of these practices on client outcomes, and thus the study is unable to address whether these practices contribute to the goal of preventing and ending family homelessness.

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Methods

The research brief is based on in-person interviews with program staff in 14 communities, including representatives from the lead agency, key partners, and other local service providers involved in the program (see Table 1).  To identify the 14 communities and corresponding programs, researchers conducted a nationwide canvass of programs through three avenues: 1) discussions with attendees at HUD’s 2010 National Conference for homeless service providers; 2) a general “call for nominations” via several federal email listservs; and 3) consultations with leading researchers in the field of family homelessness and representatives from several public housing agency (PHA) organizations.  Prospective candidates were screened via telephone based on five characteristics of a promising practice:

Table 1:
Communities in the Study, by PHA Involvement
Community Program Name
Non-PHA Sites
1.  Boise, ID Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless
2.  Chicago, IL Family Assertive Community Treatment Program
3.  Decatur, GA DeKalb KidsHome Collaborative
4.  Lawrence, MA Saunders School Apartments
5.  Minneapolis, MN Hearth Connection
6.  Palm Beach, FL Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, Inc.
7.  Pittsburgh, PA Community Wellness Project
PHA Sites
1.  Brattleboro, VT Pathways to Housing
2.  (State of) Maine Family Housing Stabilization Program
3.  (State of ) New Mexico Linkages Program
4.  Salt Lake County, UT Homeless Assistance Rental Program
5.  Portland, OR Bridges to Housing
6.  Washington, DC Permanent Supportive Housing Program
7.  Yakima, WA Serving Families and Individuals to End Serious Trouble through Agencies’ Support

Over 80 programs were considered for the study, and 14 were approved in consultation with a Technical Working Group composed of representatives from HHS, HUD, USICH and the Department of Education.  Among the 14 programs, seven had explicit partnerships with the local PHA to serve homeless families. These programs were selected to demonstrate how communities partner with PHAs to provide mainstream housing assistance such as HCV and public housing to prevent and end homelessness among families.

The next two sections describe each of these promising practices in turn, beginning with the seven practices that apply to all 14 programs followed by the three practices that are specific to PHA programs.  For each promising practice, the sections provide: 1) an overview that describes how the practice facilitated the development, implementation and sustainability of the programs, and 2) two specific examples from the communities that participated in the study.

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Promising Practices

1.  Programs closely tied their overall objectives to their target population, service interventions, and partnership arrangements, resulting in more focused programs.

Programs in the study had program missions that reflected conscious and logical decisions about whom to serve, what services to provide, who would provide them, and what outcomes to target.  As a result, these programs were well-defined, and collaborating organizations had a clear sense of purpose and clearly defined roles.  They are structured such that:

2.  Programs produced lasting partnerships through common missions, purposeful coordination, and by capitalizing on established relationships.

Programs that laid a solid foundation for future collaborations were built on three pillars:  1) program missions that advance the goals of each partner; 2) deliberate coordination processes that fostered accountability, and 3) capitalizing on established collaborative environments.

In several communities, partner organizations were able to advance their own organizational missions, those of their partners, and the overall objective of the program simultaneously.  While the varied goals of individual partners may have exceeded those of the program — for example, individual partners may work with other vulnerable populations and have a different set of objectives for these populations — the goals of the program advanced the overall mission of each partner agency, so that each had a stake in the program's success.  For example, several programs in the study were designed to rapidly place homeless families into housing and help them become self-sufficient through temporary rental assistance, case management, and the provision of supportive services.  Emergency shelters that served as referral sources for these programs were able to achieve their organizational missions by moving clients into housing, freeing up resources for other needy clients. Providers of employment and job training services promoted families’ long-term capacity to become self-sufficient and sustain their housing by improving their job search skills and placing them in jobs, thus achieving their organizational mission.  In short, lasting partnerships were based on “win-win” arrangements.

Partnerships were also built on deliberate efforts to coordinate across partners, which fostered a strong sense of accountability among partners and responsibility to clients.  These efforts appeared in many forms:  1) regularly scheduled meetings between partner agencies to discuss specific client concerns and program operational issues; 2) memoranda of understanding that formalized the roles and responsibilities of each partner agency; 3) steering committees, oversight boards, and planning coalitions to oversee and monitor the program’s progress and integrate systems; and 4) regional housing groups composed of elected officials and representatives from housing departments, public housing agencies, planning commissions, and community groups.  These deliberate coordination efforts resulted in distinct roles and clear lines of responsibility among program partners and introduced transparency to the planning process, which in turn created a greater sense of trust among partner organizations.

Lastly, while some programs created new partnerships, others capitalized on established relationships and used the program collaboration to further cement these relationships.  Prior relationships often existed between public housing agencies and landlords; social service agencies and local departments of human services; and homelessness service providers and the local Continuum of Care.  Several programs built on partnership arrangements that were first created by the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

3.  Nontraditional organizations outside the usual social service network were valuable partners in helping to prevent and end family homelessness.

The constellation of program partners went beyond the traditional network of social service providers and government agencies to include mortgage finance agencies, school district homeless liaisons, private housing developers, private businesses, faith-based institutions, and university personnel.  Each “non-traditional” partner made important contributions.  Some functioned as sources for referring clients to the program, while others were direct service providers, funders, or housing developers and managers.  In a few communities — Decatur (GA), Portland (OR), and Washington (DC) — the school district liaison played an important role in monitoring the educational outcomes of children served by the program, including their attendance, behavior, and grades.  The school liaisons worked on a regular basis with the case managers assigned to the families by the program.  Another nontraditional partner in the provision of homeless services, a private housing developer in Lawrence, MA, played the central role in a housing program for homeless families, linking the residents of a housing development with education and employment services that help them work towards self-sufficiency.  These communities demonstrated that thinking creatively when looking for partners can add value to their service interventions.

4.  Programs forged strong relationships between case managers, housing specialists, and landlords as a strategy for increasing housing options and promoting housing stability.

Among the most difficult challenges confronted by programs in the study were the paucity of decent affordable housing for homeless families and the ability of service interventions to promote housing stability among high-needs clients.  The most common strategy used by programs to overcome these challenges was to forge mutually beneficial relationships among case managers, housing specialists, and local landlords.  Many communities already had well-established relationships between homelessness service providers and landlords prior to the development and implementation of the programs in the study.  Program partners in these communities focused on maintaining and expanding the pool of landlords willing to accept homeless families by leveraging these relationships to encourage landlords to participate in new programs and to spread the word to other landlords.  In other communities, the network of landlords was less established, and program partners focused on creating outreach strategies to local landlords and developing their lists of available housing options.  In both cases, the local public housing agency often played an important role by supplying programs with its HCV landlord lists and offering its housing expertise.

The relationships among case managers, housing specialists, and local landlords were designed to be mutually beneficial:  case managers and housing specialists representing programs were able to place homeless families into decent affordable housing; and landlords were reassured by the ongoing program support offered to tenants and by the promise of a stable source of rent (i.e., the housing subsidy).  From the perspective of case managers and housing specialists, a common activity was to teach tenants how to interact positively with landlords, maintain the units, and develop their rental histories.  Housing specialists also taught families about their tenant rights.  These efforts were designed to promote families’ housing stability, although disputes between landlords and tenants were not uncommon.  Case managers and housing specialists encouraged regular communication between tenants and landlords to resolve tenancy issues, but they also intervened as needed to mediate disputes.  Indeed, in some communities, landlords preferred to contact case managers who had an established rapport with tenants, understood their housing barriers, and could intervene more effectively than the landlord.  The responsiveness of case managers and housing specialists to the concerns of both tenants and landlords appeared to be a critical component of communities’ housing placement and stability strategy.

5.  Case managers played a central role in linking human services with housing supports, and the strongest linkages were based on deliberate planning, thorough client assessments, and intensive case management.

Programs were intentionally designed to link human services with housing supports, and this link was often established by case managers who served as the focal point for assessing client needs, developing appropriate individual service plans, providing referrals and accompanying clients to service providers, facilitating the placement of clients into housing, conducting routine follow-ups and home visits, and gauging progress on individual service plans.  The strongest linkages appeared to be forged when:  1) case managers were intentional about creating them; 2) the linkages were informed by a thorough assessment of client needs; and 3) the involvement of case managers was intensive, meeting purposefully and frequently.

While some case managers viewed their role as passive conduits to services, providing service referrals as needed, others saw themselves as active enablers who “do what it takes” to ensure that clients are applying for and receiving eligible services and housing supports.  Some case managers physically accompanied clients to service providers and followed up afterward to ensure that clients were receiving the services.  Other case managers helped clients identify appropriate housing and drove clients to view the units. In every case, the efforts of case managers to link services and housing were informed by a detailed assessment of the household’s needs, typically focusing on their housing, employment and income, independent living skills, legal and criminal background, physical and mental health histories, substance abuse issues, and anticipated barriers to housing.  The results of the assessment were often formalized in individual service plans that described a client’s goals related to these services, how to achieve them, and by when.  For some case managers, identifying and tracking the receipt of services was an intensive process, reinforced by regular meetings to review the service plans, home visits, ongoing communication with service providers, mediation with landlords, and in some cases, monitoring the attendance, behavior, and performance of children through the school district liaison.

6.  The long-term stability of program funds was often uncertain, and programs pursued many different funding models that tapped into a breadth of funding streams.

Securing long-term funding was a critical issue among all communities that participated in the study.  The uncertainty was particularly acute among homelessness prevention programs that were funded mostly through HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP)[iv] and among programs that relied heavily on foundation support.  Funding uncertainty was reflected in the diverse patchwork of funding streams that communities cobbled together to support their programs.  Communities tapped multiple federal programs, including Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, Federal Emergency Management Agency Food and Shelter Grants, Historic Tax Credits, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, HPRP, HCV, HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Medicaid, Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Shelter Plus Care, Supportive Housing Program, TANF, and TANF Emergency Funds.  Communities supplemented the federal support with many other funding streams, including:  city funds, county property taxes, faith-based organizations, foundations (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hilton Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, McCormick Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and Polk Brothers Foundation), individual donations, private businesses, state general and housing trust funds, United Way, Washington Families Fund, and the YMCA.

Most communities had a decentralized funding model in which each organization used its own funding resources to support its participation in the program. Some communities — Chicago (IL), Portland (OR) and Yakima (WA) — obtained funding from foundations that supported activities across the participating partners.  In Minneapolis/St. Paul, a centralized funding apparatus was developed to streamline the funding process and relieve participating organizations from the responsibility of renewing funding.  Regardless of the approach, communities were concerned about the long-term sustainability of their funding sources, and several expected to lose their primary source of funding by 2011.  In these communities, the most pressing question is:  what will happen when the primary funding ends — will the program have demonstrated its value to other potential funders?

7.  The development of standardized intake and assessment tools and data-sharing systems across partners streamlined program operations, eliminated duplicative assessments, improved service delivery, and provided common metrics for gauging progress.

Many programs used standardized client intake and assessment tools to determine program eligibility and assess the needs of homeless families.  Several programs mandated their use in an effort to reduce the duplicative work conducted by referring agencies and case managers.  The use of these intake forms resulted in several operational efficiencies.  The forms ensured that families referred to the program from multiple agencies met all of the program’s eligibility criteria before the family was contacted for possible enrollment.  This “pre-screening” allowed program staff to more easily serve their target population and maximize available resources to assist eligible families.  Once contacted, families were enrolled more quickly into the program, because the standardized forms required referral agencies to append all necessary documentation.  In some programs, the standardized intake process included many of the eligibility criteria used by other mainstream assistance programs — such as the HCV program, TANF, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The incorporation of these eligibility criteria into the standardized intake forms allowed program staff to link clients to these resources as appropriate.

Many programs also implemented standardized client assessment tools.  Typically, the assessment tools were first administered shortly after the intake process and then were re-administered by case managers at regular intervals during a family’s time in the program.  Information from these tools was used to gauge families’ needs, identify issues that might prevent families from obtaining housing, inform the development of service plans, and properly match services to those needs.  When administered throughout a family’s stay in the program, the assessment tools provided case managers with information on the family’s progress in achieving self-sufficiency.  The most commonly used tool was the Arizona Self-Sufficiency Matrix, which measures a family’s level of distress along 18 domains based on a five-point scale.

Some programs also developed data-sharing systems across agency partners. Data-sharing systems exposed staff across program partners to information that was previously unavailable, giving program staff a more comprehensive picture of a family's issues, needs, and housing options, which in turn resulted in better program decisions.  Data-sharing systems, when combined with common assessment tools, allowed program partners to develop common metrics for gauging a family's progress and measuring program outcomes.  Several programs entered information on families into their local Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), while others designed “homegrown” databases that were tailored to the program.  For example, the Department of Human Services in Washington, DC developed a homegrown system that contains detailed information about each client and about available housing units in the District.  The database allows partners to quickly identify qualified participants, assess their needs, help them search for available housing units, and match families to appropriate units.

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Promising Practices Among Programs with PHA Involvement

1.  Programs developed a “continuum of housing” by using locally-funded housing supports as a gateway to federal supports provided through the PHA.

Several programs in the study partnered with their local public housing agency to develop a “continuum of housing” that provides temporary or transitional housing assistance to homeless families with integrated case management services until the families transitioned to a permanent housing opportunity — e.g., HUD’s HCV program or public housing developments.  The objective of these programs was to stabilize families, link them to supportive services, and address both their short- and long-term housing needs.  The programs targeted homeless families or families at high risk of homelessness.

Families participating in these programs were referred primarily by non-housing supportive service agencies, although some families also came from local emergency shelter programs.  The families were receiving services for issues that may have contributed to their homelessness (or precarious housing situation), including mental health care, addiction services, domestic violence prevention, poor credit, and lack of rental histories.  After completing intake and assessment forms, case managers within these agencies identified eligible program participants and connected them with a temporary housing subsidy. The temporary housing assistance was often for two years and structured similar to HUD’s HCV program, using the same eligibility criteria, payment agreement, housing quality, rent reasonableness, and fair market rent standards.  The temporary housing was funded through state and local sources, often involving the state’s department of human services.  Upon enrollment into the program, families were simultaneously added to the HCV waiting list in their areas. The goal was to channel families into permanent, deeply subsidized housing.

These programs appeared to have well-defined processes for accessing housing assistance and supportive services.  The procedures for each step in the “housing continuum” were clearly defined and the roles of partner organizations were transparent.  In most cases, it appeared that programs that provide these “bridge” housing supports that were locally funded had a history of collaborative relationships with the local housing agency and other homeless service providers in the area.  Housing authorities were often administering the rental assistance or providing their landlord lists and expertise to the program.

2.  Streamlining the PHA’s process for leasing private-market housing occurred through the re-tooling of PHA administrative procedures and the use of program partners to conduct activities on behalf of PHAs.

Streamlining the PHA lease-up process was a challenging issue confronted by programs that partnered with PHAs.  It was also a particularly important step among rapid re-housing and Housing First models that prioritized the quick placement of homeless families into housing.  Staff from these programs feared “losing their clients” — in terms of developing a rapport and sometimes physically — from a protracted lease-up process that may discourage or disaffect families.

Programs approached the challenge of shortening the time between program enrollment and lease-up by using two strategies:  1) reviewing and re-tooling the PHAs’ administrative procedures; and 2) utilizing program partners to conduct activities that encumber the lease-up process.  Among the seven communities in the study with PHA involvement, only one — the Permanent Supportive Housing Program in Washington, DC — altered HCV program requirements to accelerate the lease-up timeframe.  Staff from the city’s housing authority reviewed the lease-up process and identified specific steps that could occur simultaneously, rather than sequentially.  The streamlined process reduced the number of PHA visits required by applicants.  (The program is described in more detail below.)

A more common strategy was to utilize program partners to conduct activities on behalf of PHAs and thus ease the administrative burden on PHAs.  Partner staff, most often case managers, assisted with program application, housing search, and unit inspection activities.  Case managers frequently assisted clients through the program application process by helping them complete HCV or public housing applications ahead of the application appointment with the PHA.  One program allowed case managers to provide documentation that applicants had been rehabilitated following criminal convictions instead of requiring this information to originate from a third party (e.g., employer, parole officer).  Program staff also helped clients search for and select appropriate housing units that would likely pass inspection quickly.  Another program had case managers complete housing inspections at regular intervals after lease up.  The ongoing housing inspections by case managers provided assurances to the housing agency that units were being maintained by clients, especially those with intensive needs.  Using program partners throughout the lease-up process appeared to create efficiencies that significantly shorten the process.

3.  Programs created “PSH-like” environments by integrating intensive case management and services with the Housing Choice Voucher program, allowing mainstream permanent housing subsidies to be used by families with high barriers to housing.

A few programs in the study integrated intensive case management services with the HCV program or other form of housing subsidy in a way that simulated Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH).  These “PSH-like” programs allowed communities to target scarce housing resources to families with the greatest needs.  These approaches demonstrated that communities can coordinate housing and social services resources to target deeply without tapping into traditional sources of permanent supportive housing such as HUD’s Shelter Plus Care program.

The programs frequently originated from a community or regional plan to end homelessness, bringing together nonprofit, government, housing agency, and private resources to provide the housing subsidy and services.  The housing subsidy was typically a tenant- or project-based voucher, public housing, or tax credit unit.  The supportive services component often had two common characteristics:  1) detailed assessments to target the neediest families; and 2) intensive, structured case management.  Most programs used standard assessments among all service partners to systematically screen high-needs families for eligibility.  The screening tools typically examined indicators such as length and number of times a family has been homeless, employment history, household income, interactions with state mental health systems, domestic violence history, and interactions with child welfare agencies. These details allowed service providers to quantify family need consistently and thereby identify the highest-needs families.

The cornerstone of these “PSH-like” programs was intensive case management that was characterized by a low case manager-to-family ratio and frequent contacts with families.  The case manager-to-family ratio was typically very low — for example, one case manager to every 10 or 15 families — to allow case managers to build relationships with participating families and comprehensively assess their needs.  Case managers contacted families at least weekly, and typically more often during a family’s first few weeks in the program.  Most programs required families to participate in case management and provide it for at least two years, with some extending to three years.  The case management typically included several components:  1) a family assessment following intake that addressed the needs of all family members, especially children; 2) a family action plan with specific goals and deadlines; 3) frequent and deliberately scheduled contact with a case manager; 4) determining and maintaining eligibility for additional housing assistance programs; 5) service referrals and linkages to community providers such as mental health services, job training programs, employment opportunities, substance abuse counseling, domestic violence counseling, primary health care, child care assistance, and financial literacy; 6) support and advocacy in working with the judicial system, including child protection services, family courts, drug courts, juvenile detention, and gang courts; and 7) tracking a family’s progress through standardized assessment tools.

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Conclusions

This research brief highlights 10 promising practices used by local programs to link human services with housing supports for the purposes of addressing family homelessness.  The practices shaped how these programs were designed, structured, implemented and sustained.  They highlight the need to forge intentional, well-defined partnerships with entities (e.g., social service agencies, government departments, public housing agencies, and landlords) that can offer appropriate services to target populations and expand housing opportunities for homeless families, while also looking outside of the traditional social service network for valuable partners (e.g., school district homeless liaisons, housing developers, and private businesses).  Indeed, these practices suggest that linking homeless families to services and housing supports requires the active participation of many different community resources, as well as the involvement of a committed group of well-trained case managers. They also reinforce the advantages of standardized processes across participating partners to screen, enroll, and assess clients, which seemed to produce program efficiencies and may have helped to transition clients to permanent sources of housing supports.  Lastly, although many communities used one-time funding streams created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that will soon expire — such as HPRP and TANF Emergency Funds — these programs also show considerable diversity in funding sources that can be tapped to sustain them, including the use of mainstream housing programs administered by local public housing agencies.

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References

[i] Homeless families are typically defined as households composed of one or more adults with at least one minor child (age 17 or younger) that are staying in shelter or living in places not meant for human habitation (e.g., abandoned buildings, vehicles, or encampments).

[ii] For a summary, see Rog, Debra and John Buckner. 2007. “Homeless Families and Children.” In Toward Understanding Homelessness:  The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Washington DC.

[iii] Federal funding for homeless families includes programs at HUD, HHS, and the Department of Education explicitly targeted to homeless people — in particular, the Homeless Assistance Programs at HUD, the ARRA Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Re-housing (HPRP) program at HUD, the Healthcare for the Homeless program at HHS, and the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program at the Department of Education (DEd).

[iv] HUD’s HPRP program is a 3-year, $1.5 billion initiative that was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program is set to expire in 2011.

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Human Services Policy, Room 404E
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
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Last updated:  02/09/12