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

Inclusive Public Housing: Services for the Hard to House


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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. 

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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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