The National Alliance to End Homelessness recently wrapped up a two-day leadership summit on Rapid Rehousing. Over 100 leaders from the entire country shared ideas and worked on a common vision for the service model that is now a recognized solution for people experiencing homelessness who only need a hand up, people who can rebuild quickly. Rapid rehousing provides a combination of services and temporary financial assistance over a few months using the Housing First approach.
The summit was organized around five main topics designed to move the model forward: building the evidence to highlight the role rapid rehousing now plays in the homeless services system, standardizing best practices, fully incorporating the model in the system, expanding the role of local, state, and federal partners, and identifying new resources.
The gathering was an effective means to mainstream a model which has gained a lot of attention in the last few years, but meets with some reluctance from some traditional service providers.
Rapid Rehousing draws lessons-learned from the VA’s prevention and rapid rehousing program: Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF).
John Kuhn, SSVF’s national director, under whose visionary leadership the program has developed, attended the summit. Representing a sizeable investment by the Department of Veterans Affairs, SSVF has helped set the course for the development of Rapid Rehousing nationwide, setting very high standards in the service delivery. The program has allowed over 360,000 single veterans and families to regain financial stability and find housing solutions.
The program model was developed by Dennis Culhane, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with CARF, a keeper of the rehabilitation standards in the U.S.
The growing need for short-term interventions to help people living in homelessness, and the positive results attained through the use of SSVF nationwide, have helped convince service providers and national advocates of the strength of Rapid Rehousing.
Rapid Rehousing is especially effective when paired with Employment First, a model which allows participants to quickly secure the jobs they need to pay for their living situations after the initial rental subsidy (a few months on average). Employment First assumes employability (everybody has a skill set), expedites soft-skills training, and moves toward the hire as quickly as possible, often between 60 and 90 days.
At a time when homelessness is a growing concern in our country, the model constitutes both an effective and cost-effective solution, allowing the system to help large groups of people each year.
Rapid Rehousing also extends just the right level of help so programs do not foster unneeded long-term dependency on financial assistance. In this presidential election year, such a model should be able to garner support on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. As one of the newer models, Rapid Rehousing is also a sound investment for cities and counties all over the U.S., as long as it is adapted to local market conditions.
Of course, the model is not for everybody. Some people need longer-term interventions like permanent supportive housing, which comes with case management services. Others, on the other hand, just need housing without any services.
In his closing remarks, Matthew Doherty, the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), shared his excitement for the model and the other solutions that are making our response to homelessness more impactful.
As USICH’s sunset approaches in 2017, pundits and advocates are urging the administration to retain this well-led office which is providing valuable leadership in the fight to end homelessness in the U.S.