Public Housing Agencies and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless People. 6. Helping Homeless People Use Voucher Assistance for Permanent Supportive Housing


Once a household has come off the waiting list, been declared eligible, and been issued a voucher, the standard practice is that searching for housing is the responsibility of the household. This can be difficult for homeless people with health and behavioral health challenges. Furthermore, most landlords apply screening criteria related to credit history and prior evictions and are encouraged to do so by the PHA. Some PHAs and their service-providing partners have streamlined the search process and made it easier for homeless people to use vouchers for scattered-site supportive housing by:

  • Establishing ongoing relationships with landlords or property management firms that control a significant number of rental units.

  • Pre-inspecting apartments that can be made available for prospective tenants.

  • Expediting the approval process by assigning dedicated staff and completing several tasks simultaneously, rather than waiting to complete one step in the process before starting another one.

These strategies can be particularly important for engaging people with chronic patterns of homelessness with an immediate offer of housing that is available at the time a vulnerable homeless person is willing to accept it, rather than weeks or even months later.

In the District of Columbia (DC), a partnership involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the DC Department of Human Services, the DC Housing Authority, and the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness has successfully housed more than 100 of the most vulnerable, chronically homeless veterans. In DC as in many other communities, early efforts to implement HUD-VASH encountered delays in moving homeless veterans into housing. With support from the White House and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the VA, local government, and community partners created the VASH-Plus approach to adapt and streamline the process, with a focus on serving the most vulnerable chronically homeless veterans. The partners created web-based tools to share information and to track the process of identifying housing units and helping homeless veterans move through the application process and get into housing. The VA worked with community partners to implement a client-centered, “housing first” approach to case management and wrap-around services. The DC Housing Authority collaborated to improve the process for connecting vouchers to eligible homeless veterans and available housing units.16

A similar streamlined process for moving chronically homeless people from the streets into housing was developed in Los Angeles for Project 50 participants: the 50 most vulnerable people living on the streets of Skid Row. A collaboration of 19 agencies, including the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), got the average time from application to housing down to about three weeks and the time for one applicant to just 12 days. HACLA adopted several of the strategies described above, including dedicated staff.

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