Twenty years ago, dilapidated, high-crime public housing developments populated by impoverished, female-headed households were a powerful symbol of the failures of U.S. social welfare policy. HOPE VI was a key element of a bold effort to transform these public housing communities and demonstrate that housing programs could produce good results for residents and communities. The program provided grants to housing authorities to replace their most distressed developments—those with high crime rates, serious physical decay, and obsolete structures—with new, mixed-income, mixed-tenure communities. In a departure from earlier efforts to “rehabilitate” public housing, HOPE VI sought to move beyond “bricks and mortar” and provided funding for supportive services for residents to help them move toward self-sufficiency and improve their life circumstances.
There is no question that HOPE VI has changed the face of public housing—hundreds of those dilapidated structures have been replaced with attractive new developments, and the program has sparked innovations in financing and management. However, the program has not been a solution for the most vulnerable families—those “hard to house” families with multiple, complex problems that make them ineligible for mixed-income housing or unable to cope with the challenges of negotiating the private market with a Housing Choice Voucher. In many U.S. cities, public housing has served as the housing of last resort for decades, with the poorest and least desirable tenants warehoused in the worst developments. As these developments have been demolished, vulnerable families have often simply been moved from one distressed development to another, and with a concentration of extremely troubled families and a lack of adequate supportive services, these new developments have the potential to become even worse environments than those from where these families started.
This report provides an overview of the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration and its progress to date, and then focus on one of the major challenges for providers serving vulnerable families: identifying which clients require the full intensive services, and which would benefit from a different approach.
This report explores unemployment and public assistance programs in New York City. With a 10.6 percent unemployment rate and rising welfare rolls, the authors predict that the numbers of families and children living in homeless shelters will increase to 10,600 and 16,900 — increases of 13 and 15 percent, respectively — by the end of Fiscal Year 2010.
Even before the recession hit in December 2007, New York City had a large homeless family population, with a monthly average of more than 9,000 families sleeping in shelters each night. During 2009 alone, however, the number of families entering the shelter system increased by 33 percent compared to the previous year. The increase in family homelessness comes at a time when the New York City Housing Authority, facing serious federal assistance shortfalls, has announced that it will not fund additional Section 8 vouchers for 2010 and that it will terminate about 2,500 vouchers already issued to families but not yet used.
The report also explores the national scope of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs. It was produced by the Institute for Children and Poverty (ICP), an independent nonprofit that generates research to enhance public policies and programs affecting poor or homeless children and their families.
This study from University of Chicago’s Social Science Review examines the role of individual- and family-level factors in predicting the length of shelter stays for homeless families. Interviews were conducted with all families exiting one of six emergency family shelters in Worcester, Massachusetts, between November 2006 and November 2007. Analyses, using an ordinary least squares regression model, ﬁnd that families with a positive alcohol or drug screen in the year prior stay 85 days longer than those without a positive screen; families leaving shelter with a housing subsidy stay 66 days longer than those leaving without a subsidy. Demographic factors, education, employment, health, and mental health are not found to predict shelter stay duration. Consistent with prior research, housing resources relate to families’ time in shelter; with the exception of a positive substance abuse screen, individual-level problems are not related to their time in shelter. Efforts to expand these resources at the local, state, and national levels are a high priority.
In Massachusetts, nearly 5,000 families, including 10,000 children, experience homelessness annually. Having such a large number of homeless families, many of whom remain homeless for six months or longer, is unacceptable in a state that devotes considerable resources to the problem. It is well documented that homelessness exacts a heavy toll on children and places severe strain on health, educational outcomes and family composition.
Most families in Massachusetts facing homelessness receive assistance through the Emergency Assistance (EA) program, which serves an important function for families facing housing crises. Nonetheless, in relying primarily on the provision of emergency shelter, the current EA system has become increasingly expensive to support and has proven itself to be ineffective at eliminating homelessness. No child in the Commonwealth should be without a safe, and decent place to call home. Yet, under the current EA system, more and more families facing a housing crisis find themselves staying for extended periods of times in less than ideal emergency shelters and motels instead of quickly securing a more stable and permanent housing arrangement. New approaches to helping families at risk of or experiencing homelessness and a transformation of existing EA policies are urgently needed if Massachusetts hopes to eliminate family homelessness while making efficient use of resources.
The Commonwealth has a strong track record of caring for the health and well-being of its citizens. In 2006, Massachusetts passed innovative health reform legislation, which relied on cooperation between the public and private sectors to extend health coverage to tens of thousands of persons. This landmark reform has set Massachusetts apart from the rest of the nation and has served as a model for current Federal health reform legislation. In transforming the EA program, Massachusetts again has an opportunity to undertake a reform that will greatly benefit some of its most vulnerable residents. If reform is done carefully and correctly, the state can feasibly expect to make real and sustained progress towards ending family homelessness.
This paper, commissioned by the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, aims to explore the current opportunity for policy reform of the EA system in Massachusetts. It will first review recent actions by the state that have provided a context for systems change. It will then describe some of the challenges posed by the current system, particularly the lack of cost containment, and the resulting fact that significant public resources are spent supporting long-term stays in shelters and motels, which are not good for families or children. After an exploration of funding and resource issues that are germane to the discussion of EA policy reform, the paper will conclude by establishing the foundation for changing the current system into one that would be outcome oriented, driven by the objective of housing stabilization and serve families in a more timely, effective and efficient manner.
Historically, efforts to address family homelessness have not been strongly coordinated. Programs such as shelters and transitional housing were started by organizations and associations motivated to help families in need in their communities. As more programs developed, they did so largely in isolation from one another, each deciding on its own criteria. Programs were also responding to the requirements of various funders, each of whom may have emphasized a certain population or service or measure of success. Many of these programs focused on providing families a temporary place to stay and services intended to help them become more self-sufficient in the long run. Rarely were these same programs equipped to assist families back into housing as quickly as possible.
In the last decade, more communities are embracing rapid re-housing models, which move people out of homelessness as quickly as possible and then provide a flexible level of support, depending on the household's continuing--and sometimes fluctuating--needs. Philanthropy can help communities understand and promote these models.
Funders Together Resources
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Fails to Meet Basic Needs: How Inadequate and Inconsistent Funding in Driving American Families into Homelessness
Today, in every state, a family that relies entirely on TANF for income cannot cover the cost of fair market rent. Funders can, however, play an important role in addressing the gap between state TANF benefits and Fair Market Rents, as well as strengthening the relationship between state TANF programs and housing programs.
Sequestration's Impact on Homelessness [INFOGRAPHIC]
We know that sequestration is hurting homelessness services around the country. This infographic is designed to give a brief overview.
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Linking Human Services and Housing Supports to Address Family Homelessness: Promising Practices in the Field
The growing concern about family homelessness has renewed the focus among policymakers, researchers, advocates, and practitioners on the use of mainstream programs to prevent and end homelessness. The underlying belief is that programs explicitly for homeless people cannot be expected to do the whole job of preventing and ending family homelessness. Indeed, ever since the start of specialized federal funding for homeless people, it has been recognized that mainstream programs, such as Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), provide much greater resources than targeted programs for helping families leave homelessness.
It is within this context that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) commissioned a study that focuses on local programs in 14 communities that link human services with housing supports to prevent and end family homelessness. (The Department is also engaged in a similar study that focuses on homeless individuals.) The primary goal of the study is to identify promising practices that facilitated the development, implementation, and sustainability of these programs.
This study from the HUD Office of Policy Development and Research examines costs associated with the use of homeless and mainstream service delivery systems by families and individuals experiencing homelessness for the first time in six study communities. Assigning costs to public programs is a first step toward developing measures of the value of public interventions compared to the public costs incurred by ignoring or avoiding the problems those interventions are intended to address. The study finds that the experience of homelessness is diverse and the associated costs vary tremendously depending on the pattern of homelessness and family or individual status. It is not, however, a study of either cost-effectiveness or quality of care, but rather a calculation of costs associated with homelessness.
This paper assesses the age composition of the sheltered homeless population and how the age of this population – both single adults and adults in families – have changed over the past two decades. Data for this study came from administrative records on shelter use in New York City and from the nationwide shelter and general population enumerations in each of the last two decennial census enumerations.
In the late 1980s, homeless single adults and adults in families were relatively young, with the median age for both being in the late-twenties. Subsequently, however, these household types appear to have diverged, as the birth cohort from which the young single adults had come (born 1954-1965) has continued to be overrepresented in the shelter population, whereas homelessness among adults in families has remained linked to households in the early parenting years (ages 18-23). While the families and the single adults may have experienced some common precipitating factors that led to the emergence of homelessness in the 1980s, the young mothers appear to age out of their risk for homelessness while homelessness among this birth cohort of single adults sustains. Hypotheses are discussed regarding the social and economic factors that may be associated with disproportionate housing instability and homelessness among adults from the latter half of the baby boom cohort.
Implications for public policy are considered, including the premature risk of disability, frailty and mortality associated with this cohort.
Amidst concern about the implications of an aging U.S. population, recent evidence suggests that there is a unique aging trend among the homeless population. Building on this, we use data from New York City and from the last three decennial Census enumerations to assess how the age composition of the homeless population—both single adults and adults in families—has changed over time.
Findings show diverging trends in aging patterns for single adults and adults in families over the past 20 years. Among single adults, the bulk of the sheltered population is comprised of persons born during the latter part of the baby boom era whose high risk for homelessness has continued as they have aged. Specifically, the age group in this population facing the highest risk for homelessness was 34–36 (born 1954–1956) in 1990; 37–42 (born 1958–1963) in 2000; and 49–51 (born 1959–1961) in 2010. In contrast, among adults in sheltered families, there is no indication of any progressive aging of the family household heads. The modal age across the study period remains at 21–23 years of age.
This report considers implications for the health care and social welfare systems, and policy responses to homelessness.