Friday, May 10, 2013

Rapidly Rehousing Homeless Families: New York City—a Case Study

Recently, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness published a report addressing the "Rapid Rehousing" or "Housing First" programs that have been seen as the key to ending homelessness. This report, which uses New York City's program as a case study, seems to echo many of our own concerns regarding the "Housing First" mindset.

In summary, the difficulties with the "Rapid Rehousing" program uncovered in New York City are
  • an "explosion" of homeless rates, as those "doubling up or living in substandard housing" moved into shelters to take advantage of housing assistance available to those who were "verified" homeless (usually proven by a shelter verification of stay);
  • an overload on the shelter system as the numbers of homeless underwent the eligibility process to receive housing assistance;
  • an increase in "recidivism" (return to homelessness) and its included costs, as many underlying issues of homelessness were not addressed and led to a cycle of homelessness;
  • once the "housing first" subsidies were halted, families "caught" in the cycle of homelessness were unable to find housing at all, resulting in an increase in not only the amount of those staying in shelter but also in the amount of time they stayed.
"The lesson to be drawn from all of this should be clear: 'one size fits all' policies for addressing family homelessness do not work. Not all families are equal. Some families successfully transitioned to permanent housing after their shelter stays, but others did not. Many have multiple needs beyond simple housing that should be addressed before their move to independent living. Rapid rehousing was a failed experiment that produced unwanted incentives and unwarranted costs, all of which the city's Department of Homeless Services must now address. In New York City, rapid rehousing became a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Whether or not it is successful in the future in other parts of the country, for now the caution light is on."
Ralph da Costa Nunez, PhD
President and CEO

To read the full report, click here: