Friday, July 30, 2010

Portrait of Homelessness: Costs and Interventions

Three recent studies on homelessness in the United States examine the cost of first-time homelessness, life after transitional housing for homeless families, and strategies for improving access to mainstream benefits and services. The reports were issued by HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research.

Three Studies:

  • Costs Associated with First-Time Homelessness for Families and Individuals
  • Strategies for Improving People's Access to Mainstream Benefits and Services
  • Life after Transitional Housing for Homeless Families

Some History

Homelessness has migrated toward rural and suburban areas. There were 1.6 million homeless people in shelters in 2009. The number of homeless people has not changed dramatically but the number of homeless families has increased, according to a 2009 HUD report.

The United States Congress appropriated $25 million in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants for 2008 to show the effectiveness of Rapid Re-housing programs in reducing family homelessness.

In February 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,  part of which addressed homelessness prevention, allocating $1.5 billion for a Homeless Prevention Fund. The funding for it was called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). It was distributed using the formula for the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) program.

On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act into Public Law (Public Law 111-22 or "PL 111-22"), reauthorizing HUD's Homeless Assistance programs. It was part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 (HEARTH). The goal of the HEARTH Act is to prevent homelessness, offer rapid re-housing, consolidate housing programs, and create new homeless categories. In the eighteen months after the bill's signing, HUD must make regulations implementing this new McKinney program.

In late 2009, some homeless advocacy organizations, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless, reported and published perceived problems with the HEARTH Act of 2009 within the framework of the McKinney-Vento Reauthorization bill, especially with regard to privacy, definitional ineligibility, community roles, and restrictions on eligible activities.

As the foreclosure epidemic continues to grow, the population of the homeless is also increasing. This puts considerable strain on municipal, state, and federal resources as well as faith-based outreach efforts. HUD's programs are one of several means to respond to this situation. And, as is the case with so much of the economic crisis and recession, there is no single solution to some of these intractable problems.


Research Findings

Research Report
Costs Associated with First-Time Homelessness for Families and Individuals

  • For homeless individuals, emergency shelter is typically the least expensive response and transitional housing is the most expensive.
  • For homeless families, emergency shelters and transitional housing programs were equally expensive, usually due to the amount of services families receive in both program models and the higher cost of providing families with accommodations that have a greater degree of privacy than individuals require.
  • Permanent supportive housing for both individuals and families is less expensive to the homeless assistance response system, as service costs are borne by other systems, such as Food Stamp or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

Research Report
Strategies for Improving People's Access to Mainstream Benefits and Services

  • Communities with the greatest success had a strong central organization intent on improving access of homeless persons to mainstream services.
  • Communities were usually able to reduce structural barriers to benefits (such as physical access, complexity and length of application processes) and rules for documenting eligibility.
  • Communities were less successful in overcoming barriers beyond their control, such as eligibility requirements for various programs and limited capacity of mainstream service providers.
  • Communities have developed innovative ways to overcome barriers to mainstream benefits, but some barriers can only be resolved with state or federal involvement.

Research Report
Life after Transitional Housing for Homeless Families

  • Individuals benefited from educational and employment opportunities that help change life circumstances.
  • Children benefited from having fewer moves and school changes.
  • Families leaving transitional housing moved to their own place, and 60 percent remained in their homes 12 months later.
  • No relationship was established between the number of barriers to stability that a family faces, the length of stay in transitional housing, and the outcomes of the stay.

Families with relatively few challenges remained in transitional housing for long durations and may be using such assistance while waiting for subsidized housing to become available.

Visit Library for Issuances

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HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
-Costs Associated with First-Time Homelessness for Families and Individuals
-Strategies for Improving People's Access to Mainstream Benefits and Services
-Life after Transitional Housing for Homeless Families

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