A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

HPRP: It Has ‘Transformative Potential’…but is it Tweet-worthy?

Lately, many local news stories have spotlighted the use of HPRP (Homeless Prevention and Rapid re-housing Program) funds and how these funds are saving families and individuals from the streets. 

Managing a twitter feed requires two basics: content worth tweeting and the judgment regarding what constitutes worthy content. Content really is a matter of source. In twitterland, sources are traditional news articles, reports, research, and, of course, your followers and fellow Tweeters. This is essentially online press vetted by an online community. Necessarily a great deal of content goes under the twitter radar. This is the press ‘not worth tweeting.’

But this news can be interesting and revealing in its own right.

Local news generally takes a human interest angle, which means for homeless news a focus on the homeless individual. Lately, many local news stories have spotlighted the use of HPRP (Homeless Prevention and Rapid re-housing Program) funds and how these funds are saving families and individuals from the streets. HPRP is not without its pros and cons. The New York Times ran a huge article “Handing Out Money to Stave off Homelessness” in April addressing just that. But the constant reporting, the variant headlines of “Program Prevents Homelessness in such and such County” and “Stimulus Helps…”, indicates the very real impact of the funds and its relevancy, even if HPRP stories all take a familiar trajectory. The ‘HP’ of HPRP funds are intended as homelessness prevention, focusing on keeping families and individuals from homelessness. The stories read (forgive the generalization) as: impending crisis, outreach to program funds, funds save, family/person is now happy and thankful.

It’s likely many of these stories make a showing on twitter or facebook. We don’t see them because we follow and choose to disseminate a different selection of sources (users). But these under-the-radar stories can be very poignant in several respects. One, the fact that we view these as ‘just another HPRP story’ seems to imply that HPRP funds are working. Two, because these smaller stories are not deemed headline-worthy, there follows a logic that these stories are known, that people don’t have to read them because they’ve already read them. A good story about Lee County, FL (News-Press) might be transposed to a good story about Utah (Deseret News) or Portland, ME (Portland Press-Herald). What readers don’t know about the subjects of these stories is whether those helped were deserving, needy, or simply took advantage of the proverbial ‘hand out’. This ambiguity in part defines some of these stories as ‘untweetworthy’.

HPRP stories are a good news sign. Is the program perfect, without loopholes, without human error and judgment calls? No. But a steady stream of positive news reports, complete with human faces and names and spared hardship, suggests that homeless prevention is happening. Homeless counts and the hard data are always retrospective. But it appears possible to say with some level of confidence that the Federal government is putting dollars to effective use. And as merit to a policy stance of prevention, implementing programs and funding programs in joint partnership with the private sector seems a laudable and optimistic future.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness posted a blog a few weeks ago citing the ‘transformative potential’ of HPRP, and recently ran a Q&A (with Leah Bradley of Community Health Link in Worcester, MA) reiterating the positive and definitive need for federal assistance programs. And so while HPRP stories are, generally speaking, ‘untweetworthy’ on the Funders Together stream, they are also serving as important evidence and munitions for the perspective and approach of collaboration. 

Georgie Schaefer is the electronic media intern at Funders Together. He will be attending the University of Chicago this fall for a Masters degree in the Humanities.

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