1.12 Examining Community-Wide Housing First Systems for Families (Wherley)


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This workshop will examine the steps communities have undertaken to create a homelessness system that rapidly re-houses most families experiencing homelessness. Speakers will discuss the use of a centralized intake process, diversion, assessment and targeting, and the delivery of rapid re-housing services. Organizational change will also be discussed.

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1.12 Examining Community-Wide Housing First Systems for Families (Wherley)

  1. 1. Evolution of a Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing System: Hennepin County, MN 1992-2010 Marge Wherley Hennepin County, 1980-2010 Abt Associates, July 12, 2010 - ??
  2. 2. It didn’t happen overnight! <ul><li>1992-1993 County and nonprofit staff begin crisis planning due to 3 years of 35%/year increases in family shelter census </li></ul><ul><li>Joint lobbying for new State grant; Hennepin County as grantee </li></ul><ul><li>Competitive selection of sub-contracted service providers to deliver outcome-focused services to reduce length of stay in family shelter and prevent admissions </li></ul><ul><li>1993 : First Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Exit services initiated </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>1995 : Begin centralized assessment and referral for Rapid Exit by nonprofit (Elim) </li></ul><ul><li>1996 : County abolishes TANF “savings” and assures costs for housing start-up </li></ul><ul><li>2000 : County develops Shelter Team to coordinate shelter, Rapid Exit, and TANF </li></ul><ul><li>2000-2003 : Shelter Diversion added, with County funding to prevent shelter admission </li></ul><ul><li>2008 : Rapid Exit expanded from “moderate barriers” to all families in Shelter </li></ul><ul><li>2010 : Prevention eligibility re-calibrated to more closely match characteristics of homeless families </li></ul>
  4. 4. Learnings: Centralized vs. Decentralized Assessment and Intake <ul><li>Decentralized : </li></ul><ul><li>No consistency in family assessment </li></ul><ul><li>No accountability for county-wide targeting--perception of “creaming” </li></ul><ul><li>Client-finding = Chaos for shelter and Rapid Exit staff </li></ul><ul><li>Centralized : </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Targeting/prioritization is simple </li></ul><ul><li>Predictability/Fairness for clients, shelter and Rapid Exit staff </li></ul><ul><li>Can respond to changes in shelter census and agency capacity </li></ul>
  5. 5. Targeting: Rapid Exit <ul><li>Rapid Exit = 6 months of tenancy and landlord supports </li></ul><ul><li>Originally intended only for families with “moderate barriers” to getting and keeping housing—families with higher barriers were offered Transitional Housing or Intensive Case Management </li></ul><ul><li>After extensive experience—and a new crisis (25% increase in admissions), nonprofits willing to add families with very severe barriers </li></ul><ul><li>First year outcomes with higher- barrier families acceptable; by end of second year, outcomes virtually identical with outcomes for lower-barrier families </li></ul><ul><li>95% of all households did not return to shelter within 12 months of exit. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Targeting: Prevention <ul><li>In 1993, small amounts of one-time financial assistance prevented housing loss; by 2009, rents were higher but public benefits remained unchanged </li></ul><ul><li>2010 HMIS and a 3-week 100% survey showed Homeless families entering shelter had more risk factors and lower incomes than Prevention households </li></ul><ul><li>Re-calibrated Prevention eligibility to < or = 30% AMI + housing crisis + minimum of 20 points (based upon risk factors weighted by local prevalence and seriousness as a housing barrier) </li></ul><ul><li>Too early for definitive conclusions, but shelter census data looks promising (less-than-normal increase during last spike of “peak demand”) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Targeting: Diversion <ul><li>Closest to the shelter door: family has already requested shelter </li></ul><ul><li>Can you stay…? Could you return…? </li></ul><ul><li>Safety is always a consideration </li></ul><ul><li>Negotiation with landlord and friends/family. Assistance for food or rent </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes effective in preventing, not just delaying homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>Cost-effectiveness calculation: would diversion be cheaper than homelessness? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Learnings: Targeting <ul><li>Most families can successfully avoid or exit homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>If the success rate is too high, the targeting is too restrictive </li></ul><ul><li>Tolerate failures—keep performance targets reasonable </li></ul><ul><li>Always try last-minute diversion (if safe) </li></ul><ul><li>High success rates possible for families with very high barriers </li></ul>
  9. 9. Working with Landlords: Hard at First, Much Easier Over Time <ul><li>Originally, landlord recruitment is extremely difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Landlords could ask anything: double security deposits, “911” on-call response </li></ul><ul><li>Staff have to start with “guaranteed success” households </li></ul><ul><li>Over time, a loyal cadre of landlords will be achieved and more difficult families can be housed </li></ul><ul><li>Develop standardized “package” of landlord supports and adjust upward for the riskiest referrals </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid Exit is a good business deal for landlords </li></ul><ul><li>Some landlords will be willing to accept lower rent or delayed payments to keep tenant referrals </li></ul><ul><li>NEVER BURN A LANDLORD </li></ul><ul><li>DO NOT WORK WITH SLUMLORDS </li></ul>
  10. 10. Tenancy Supports <ul><li>6 months of service seems to be enough for 95% of families—no dramatic fall-off after services end </li></ul><ul><li>Start-up costs must be available as soon as a lease is offered </li></ul><ul><li>Focus: Housing, housing, housing </li></ul><ul><li>Family has option to address other issues (and many will) </li></ul><ul><li>Culturally-competent staff with practical life skills (“must know how to plunge a toilet”) </li></ul>
  11. 11. About Rental Subsidies… <ul><li>Reality: everyone who must rely on public assistance is at risk of homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>Social justice: award some households a deep subsidy and provide nothing to others? </li></ul><ul><li>Even the rumor of subsidies for homelessness can incent homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>Few households can progressively increase their income at the same rate a declining subsidy declines </li></ul><ul><li>Rent burden is preferable to subsidized housing that can’t be maintained when the subsidy disappears </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume the “best case scenario” when designing a subsidy program </li></ul>
  12. 12. How to Create, Sustain and Improve a Community System <ul><li>Interagency trust is not a pre-requisite; it can be earned over time </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on CLIENT is mandatory (a crisis helps!) </li></ul><ul><li>Obtain direct input from clients!!!! </li></ul><ul><li>New funding to try new ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Outcome-focused: What works? How do you know? Meaningful data, well-analyzed. </li></ul><ul><li>Share everything: training, data, cases </li></ul><ul><li>Periodically re-calibrate </li></ul><ul><li>Listen and Learn —then Act </li></ul>
  13. 13. Creating a Housing First Approach: Early Steps <ul><li>Identify funding for housing start-up, financial assistance and staffing </li></ul><ul><li>Create a process for homeless families to be referred (universal screening or case-based referral) </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt or adapt a RRH screening tool that focuses on barriers to getting housing and barriers to keeping housing </li></ul><ul><li>Define tenancy supports—frequency of home visits, methods of assisting households to overcome barriers to housing retention </li></ul><ul><li>Define landlord incentives/recruitment strategies and devise a plan for targeting landlords </li></ul>
  14. 14. Creating a Housing First Approach: After Start-Up… <ul><li>Periodically conduct surveys of landlord and consumer satisfaction + areas for improvement </li></ul><ul><li>Assure that voluntary services do not become mandatory (beware of “institutional creep”) </li></ul><ul><li>Share case consultation, training, and new client resources with staff through regular internal and inter-agency meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Review client data to determine which households are benefitting most and where improvements are needed </li></ul><ul><li>Periodically review environmental data (changes in shelter utilization, housing and job markets, increases in rent) to determine where/when to “tweak” </li></ul>
  15. 15. QUESTIONS?