A new study by the Heartland Alliance shows that one of the main pillars of HUD’s homelessness assistance to families is woefully inadequate. Integrating Rapid Re-Housing & Employment demonstrates that rapid re-housing falls short in preparing participants to maintain housing by failing to integrate employment training and education.
Rapid re-housing provides short-term rental subsidies and optional case management services. These services are similar to other Housing First services that are offered but not required. After the short-term subsidy ends, families are obligated to assume full market rate for the rent and continue to do so for the term of the lease.
Some of the criticisms of rapid re-housing are that, because participants are required to sign a lease, if they are unable to make the rent after the subsidy ends, their credit histories show a break in the lease making it even more difficult to obtain housing. In addition, since finding a job takes time, the time-limited nature of rapid re-housing does not benefit participants who often lack job skills and education in the first place. Worse yet is the finding that being enrolled in school or workforce training can actually harm the chances of receiving rapid re-housing. According to the study, “Rapid Re-Housing for Homeless Families Demonstration (RRHD) grantees were less likely to offer rapid re- housing services to parents enrolled in longer-term education and training programs due to concerns that their incomes would not rise quickly enough to maintain housing by the end of the subsidy period.”
Integrating Rapid Re-Housing & Employment recommends programs address
lack of employment and job related deficiencies early in the program. Most promising is the recommendation to include outcome measures that reflect increases in employment and income. By measuring participant incomes as a means of program success, not only can programs be evaluated on their efficacy with respect to housing stability, they can also measure the impact of work as a means of escaping deep poverty.
Work is recognized by parents and families experiencing homelessness as key to overcoming homelessness. According to the Heartland Alliance, “People experiencing homelessness consistently rank employment along with healthcare and housing as a primary need and often attribute their homelessness to unemployment and insufficiency income.”
Findings like these from the Heartland Alliance substantiate the criticism that the reduced prioritization of work in HUD’s Housing First approach, fails to incorporate successful strategies to solve deep poverty. Housing First’s “low barrier” policy, prohibit sobriety, work, and accountability in HUD funded homelessness assistance programs.