The most important areas on which information is needed are how many homeless families need intensive ongoing supportive services to maintain stable housing and when those services need to be packaged with a housing subsidy or delivered on site. It is estimated that 22,000 families need permanent supportive housing based on some rough and ready decisions on how to use the variables available in the NSHAPC. This is an area that clearly needs more work, including on a clear definition of what supportive housing is. For example, some of the permanent supportive housing funded by Shelter Plus Care and the Supportive Housing Program may be better characterized as transitional housing without a time limit, given the expectation of its sponsors that families living there eventually will graduate to mainstream permanent housing. Does this sort of continuum make sense for a particular type of homeless family, or has it simply grown out of the practice of the homeless services system?
Another area that needs more work is how many families can leave homelessness quickly without needing subsidized housing. Again, a crude estimate has been provided based on NSHAPC, but HMIS data over time will give a much better picture of movement patterns out of homelessness that will make possible a much more definitive assessment. A related question is how many homeless families can afford the flat rents provided by LIHTC and HOME (and potentially the NHT) and do not need a voucher to enable them to live in the growing stock of subsidized housing that follows the affordable housing rather than the assisted housing model.
Other questions have to do with the current use of assisted and affordable housing programs. A substantial gap in the information available for this chapter is the extent to which LIHTC and HOME already are used for housing targeted to homeless families or to families with special needs—clearly an area in which additional information gathering will be important for developing a complete picture both of resources available and of barriers to their use.
A similar question is, without the earlier special set-asides of Federal allocations of vouchers, how extensively do PHAs now make vouchers and public housing available to families leaving homelessness? Much of what has been said in this chapter about barriers to the use of mainstream assisted housing resources as permanent housing for parents who have become homeless has been based on anecdotal information. There is a clear need for more systematic information gathering on this topic as well.