Best Practice Housing Solutions


Housing First

Housing First is an approach that centers on providing individuals experiencing homelessness with appropriate housing quickly, regardless of potential housing barriers, then providing support services as needed. What differentiates a Housing First approach from other strategies is that there is an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families access long-term, sustainable housing as quickly as possible. This approach has the benefit of not only being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and prefer, but also being associated with consistently high outcomes across a variety of communities. The removal of barriers to housing yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness and significant reductions in the use of crisis service and institutions. Due to its high degree of success, Housing First is identified as a core strategy for ending homelessness in Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness
 
The Housing First approach is used in both permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing models. The approach has also evolved to encompass a community-level orientation to ending homelessness in which barriers to housing entry are removed and efforts are in place to prioritize the move vulnerable people for housing assistance.
 
Core Elements of Housing First:

  • Admission/tenant screening and selection practices promote the acceptance of applicants regardless of their sobriety or use of substances, completion of treatment, and participation in services.

  • Applicants are seldom rejected on the basis of poor credit or financial history, poor or lack of rental history, minor criminal convictions, or behaviors that indicate a lack of “housing readiness.”

  • Housing accepts referrals directly from shelters, street outreach, drop-in centers, and other parts of the crisis response system frequented by vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.

  • Supportive services emphasize engagement and problem-solving over therapeutic goals. Service plans are highly tenant-driven without predetermined goals. Participation in services or program compliance is not a condition of permanent supportive housing tenancy. Rapid re-housing programs may require case management as condition of receiving rental assistance.

  • Use of Alcohol or drugs in and of itself (without other lease violations) is not considered a reason for eviction.

  • Tenant selection plan for permanent supportive housing includes a prioritization of eligible tenants based on criteria other than “first come/first serve” such as duration/chronicity of homelessness, vulnerability or high utilization of crisis services.

Rapid Rehousing

Rapid Rehousing provides temporary financial assistance and supportive services to quickly and permanently house individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Rapid rehousing assistance is offered without preconditions (such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety) and the resources and services provided are typically tailored to the unique needs of the household. The core components of a rapid re-housing program are below:

Housing Identification

  • Recruit landlords to provide housing opportunities for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

  • Address potential barriers to landlord participation such as concern about short term nature of rental assistance and tenant qualifications.

  • Assist households to find and secure appropriate rental housing.

Rent and Move-In Assistance (Financial)

  • Provide assistance to cover move-in costs, deposits, and the rental and/or utility assistance (typically six months or less) necessary to allow individuals and families to move immediately out of homelessness and to stabilize in permanent housing.

Rapid Rehousing Case Management and Services

  • Help individuals and families experiencing homelessness identify and select among various permanent housing options based on their unique needs, preferences, and financial resources.

  • Help individuals and families experiencing homelessness address issues that may impede access to housing (such as credit history, arrears, and legal issues).

  • Help individuals and families negotiate manageable and appropriate lease agreements with landlords.

  • Make appropriate and time-limited services and supports available to families and individuals to allow them to stabilize quickly in permanent housing.

  • Monitor participants’ housing stability and be available to resolve crises, at a minimum during the time rapid re-housing assistance is provided.

  • Provide or assist the household with connections to resources that help them improve their safety and well-being and achieve their long-term goals. This includes providing or ensuring that the household has access to resources related to benefits, employment and community-based services (if needed/appropriate) so that they can sustain rent payments independently when rental assistance ends.

  • Ensure that services provided are client-directed, respectful of individuals’ right to self-determination, and voluntary. Unless basic, program-related case management is required by statute or regulation, participation in services should not be required to receive rapid rehousing assistance.

The Core Components of Rapid Rehousing were developed in collaboration with, and endorsed by, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs provide housing coupled with supportive services to disabled persons experiencing homelessness. NHC’s local PSH strategy is based on identifying and prioritizing homeless persons who are frequent users of public systems and/or vulnerable for death or harm. Both measures are intended to help the community prioritize limited resources to those most in need.  

PSH is not only successful in permanently and stably housing disabled persons experiencing homelessness, but it is also a cost-effective interventions. Formerly homeless individuals are far less likely to draw on expensive public services. They are also less likely to end up in homeless shelters, emergency rooms, or jails, none of which are effective interventions for chronic homelessness. Public costs – whether local, state or federal – are therefore reduced. One study of the 1811 Eastlake program in Seattle, WA, which provides housing to homeless people with the most extensive health problems, found that the program saved nearly $30,000 per tenant per year in publicly-funded services, all while achieving better housing and health outcomes for the tenants.