Housing Assistance and Supportive Services in Memphis: Best Practices for Serving High Needs Populations. INTRODUCTION

01/05/2013

This document is designed to provide service providers, government employees, and community organizations with a summary of research-supported best practices and promising strategies for serving high-needs populations living in poverty. It is part of Housing Assistance and Supportive Services in Memphis, a project for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted by the Urban Institute and its subcontractor, University of Memphis, with the goal of helping foster effective service delivery to Memphis, Tennessee residents who live in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted housing.

In particular, the project focused on households that were relocated from public housing as part of the two-decade federal HOPE VI demolition and revitalization program for distressed public housing developments. HOPE VI relocatees, both in Memphis and around the country, are extremely low-income and many need supportive services. In addition, the Memphis Housing Authority (MHA), following the national trend has fewer deeply-subsidized public housing units and more Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs). This strategy offers residents more choice of housing and neighborhood, but creates the risk that relocatees may become detached from the resource networks they used in their former communities.

During the assessment phase (late 2011 through early 2012), the project team discovered that a wide variety of service delivery and development strategies are underway in Memphis, many of which are new efforts. This memo was devised to provide Memphis stakeholders, including service providers, local funders, development organizations, and city and county government officials, with a summary of evidence-based practices for serving high-needs public housing populations. Our hope is that this information will help both these local stakeholders and their counterparts nationwide focus ongoing and new efforts toward proven and promising practices in this challenging area of service.

This document has four parts. First, we outline the risks associated with concentrated poverty, which HOPE VI grants, HCVs, and neighborhood-based anti-poverty programs all work to address. Then, we provide information on and evidence for successful relocation and  supportive service models. Finally,  we outline promising practices in emerging umbrella service strategies involving case management and coordination, which, in most cases, have not yet undergone robust study.

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