Homeless Families Program USA

Homeless Families Program USA  

Background
In 1988, Beyond Shelters Homeless Families Program introduced a dramatic innovation to the field of urban homeless, bypassing traditional “transitional housing”, to move homeless families and adults directly into permanent rental housing in residential neighbourhoods. This makes use of existing programs, services, and institutions that have, for the most part, operated dynamically but somewhat in isolation from each other and from providers “outside” of their fields.

Narrative
The most important innovation of the program is the shift it engenders in current beliefs and norms related to the nature of the problem and solutions of homelessness. Traditional approaches physically move the homeless around from one provider to another in a cumbersome process that can be capital intensive and disenfranchising and can actually slow or prevent the process of stabilization with a secure place within mainstream society. Beyond shelters program, which places homeless families directly into permanent housing with the provision of individualized case management support for u to one full year — dramatically shifts cultural, political and administrative policies and practices towards a program of social integration and enfranchisement.

The approach represents an innovation in forms of social architecture since it presumes to situate homeless people within the large unhomeless community as if they deserve the dignity and human connection that such a placement suggests. Finally, since the Homeless Families Program mobilizes for participants those related services that already exist in the public What problem does your innovation address, and how?

It is an axiom of our field that the longer a family or person remains homeless the more dyfunctional they tend to become. Therefore providing homeless people with shelter is only the beginning of what must be a long process of intervention and support, if the interventions aim for permanent success. Without benefit of an integrated approach to service delivery and systematic case management support, many families risk becoming chronically homeless.

Among the interrelated urban problems the Homeless Families Program address area: Poverty, including the lack of access to existing income, jobs and job training programs, and credit opportunities; economic development, including access to economic development training opportunities for low-income, isolated, potential entrepreneurs, social infrastructure and services and housing. Beyong Shelter addresses the fundamental problem of issue and services fragmentation by providing an approach that is integrative in several dimensions: it integrates homeless people into established neighbourhoods (and therefore the larger society) immediately and it integrates existing disparate services so that each individuals needs are fully addressed.

Moving homeless families and adults directly into permanent rental housing and providing individualized case management services for up to one year after their move provides the opportunity for a permanent transition to stability. Homeless families are referred to Beyond Shelter by a network of approximately 25 community agencies, including shelters,drug treatment programs, social service agencies, and churches, a process that ensures participation from a broad spectrum of destitute individuals and families. During screening and enrollment, the family works with agency staff to develop an individualized family transition plan which identifies their housing and social services needs — and the steps necessary to achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Families are then assisted in obtaining affordable rental housing in neighourhoods of their choice throughout L. A. County. Targeted assistance is provided in negotiating leases, accessing move-in funds and overcoming the barriers of poor credit history, prior to evictions and discrimination based on ethnicity, family size and unemployment. Each enrolled family is assigned a case manager, who provides comprehensive support for up to one year as they participate in their Family Transition Plans. Progress is evaluated at quarterly intervals for up to 12 months, until the participants(s) is no longer at risk of a recurrence of homelessness. It is important to note that the program is equipped to serve individuals of all ages as well as families.

Sustainability
The methodology is ideal for adaptation in communities internationally, because it is individualized, and is designed to maximize the use of existing services and resources. Developed in an era of shrinking resources, the Beyond Shelter methodology is based on collaboration between non-profits, government and the private sector, to create permanent change in the lives of families experiencing homelessness by helping them build a personal support system within a residential community. The approach has also been incorporated into HUDs “continuum of care” approach to ending homelessness, and is now a national model. Beyond Shelters publications are currently utilized by agencies throughout the country.