Housing Assistance and Supportive Services in Memphis: Best Practices for Serving High Needs Populations. PROMISING PRACTICES AND NEW DIRECTIONS


While the programs and strategies described above have undergone robust evaluations, there are many new strategies underway which show promise, but which have not yet received full evaluation for effectiveness.  Below, we describe some promising efforts underway in cities across the country. In general, early results from these efforts, coupled with the research described above, suggests that holistic, wrap-around case management and service provision is able to improve the lives of distressed residents

Case Management

There is currently no consensus in the research and policy community about the degree to which using housing as a platform for case management and service provision is effective in different environments (for example, it may be that some models are only effective for most service recipients when they live in mixed income environments, or under certain other parameters). Building on findings from the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration, the Urban Institute launched Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST), a multisite demonstration testing innovative, wrap-around services and programs for youth and adults living in a range of public and mixed income housing. The initiative evaluates how public housing and human services can be coordinated in different settings to maximize positive outcomes for residents and their children. Given more time for development and evaluation of the medium-term results, the HOST demonstration and similar strategies may influence the development of place-based, supportive environments for low-income populations.

Supportive housing initiatives have also shown promise in addressing more specialized needs related to poverty and housing need. Poverty, stress, and instability have long been considered as substantial contributors to child abuse and neglect. The Keeping Families Together initiative, for example, provides supportive housing (including services and case management) to families with children involved in the child welfare system. The pilot evaluation garnered support from city agencies and private and nonprofit supportive housing providers to aggressively build the capacity of supportive housing services and case managers.  In addition to providing families with referrals to services, case managers also provided support for families needing crisis intervention and clinical consultants.  Evaluations indicate that supportive housing coupled with provider and case manager efforts to engage families contributes to declines in family abuse and neglect. In an ambitious effort to design incentives for families in public housing to work, the federal Jobs-Plus program offers employment assistance coupled with case management services to entire public housing communities. Initial findings from the multi-site Jobs-Plus Demonstration in 2005 indicated that once services were in place, residents’ average earnings increased by 6 percent relative to housing development residents with similar characteristics. The long-term findings suggest encouraging changes coupled with continued improved earnings after involvement with the program has ended (Riccio 2010).

Similarly, the Opportunity Chicago Initiative aimed to help public housing residents improve employment opportunities through workforce development (Parkes et al. 2012). By identifying barriers to employment, the initiative exceeded its goal and placed more than 5,000 public housing residents into employment. A key strength of Opportunity Chicago has been the targeted goal of providing client-specific assistance through case management, coupled with aggressive efforts to coordinate employment services.  The Opportunity Chicago Imitative suggests building a strong collaborative effort aligned with a common goal to help build relationships across stakeholders and unite efforts to meet families’ needs.


Current efforts nationwide have prioritized coordination across organizations and agencies, providing promising strategies to increase vulnerable families’ access to services. Notably, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families’ Intensive Supportive Housing for Families program, is a collaboration with community agencies and nonprofit service organizations to triage services tailored to family needs across agencies. Additional efforts will benefit by connecting supportive services with case management in coordination with trauma-informed therapy, while targeting families and providing client-specific services.

Certain federal agencies have also shown recent and sustained support to drive local collaborations that support child welfare-involved families with housing need. HUD has provided HCVs and administrative fees to dozens of local public housing authorities through Family Unification Program (FUP) grants since 1990. Through FUP, public housing authorities collaborate with their local child welfare agencies to identify families with inadequate housing that have children in out of home placement or at risk of having a child placed out of home with housing vouchers and follow-up. Targeting strategies and collaboration efforts beyond the initial identification and referral of families for housing vouchers varies from site to site. Some FUP grantee partnerships involve third-party agencies or organization to provide additional case management and supportive services or resources. This program has not yet received a robust evaluation, although such evaluations are underway. HHS awarded five grants under the Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System initiative in 2012. This demonstration has similar goals to HUD’s FUP program, aimed at providing supportive services and housing for child welfare-involved families through local collaboration, centered around the local child welfare agencies rather than the housing authorities.

It should also be noted that neighborhood-level service coordination programs involving both case management and wrap-around services are on the rise nationwide, though there is little evidence available as to their efficacy and substantial findings will take some years for full development. These programs include HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods initiative, which is centered around assisted housing developments, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which is centered around schools. Each of these programs aims to provide a range of services and sustained outreach to residents of very poor and distressed neighborhoods over time, with the overall goal of neighborhood change.

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