Rapid re-housing is a program whose goal is to provide and support families as they make their way to a stable living situation and life.
Whether a family is finding stability for the first time or reestabilizing their housing situation, the overall goal is to remove them from homelessness for the near term, with the expectancy of having a stable home for the long term.
Traditional approaches to defeating homelessness focused on residential programs to help people live independently and permanently. This assistance was provided for up to two years.
Some organizations even decided to move people directly out of homelessness to permanent housing, and then, once out of homelessness, they are offered the support and assistance that meets their specific needs.
Rapid re-housing, on the other hand, offers short-term or medium-term financial assistance and case management to support homeless adults and their families as they move towards a stable home. It has demonstrated to provide better outcomes and does-so at lower costs.
What Is Rapid Rehousing?
Rapid re-housing is a critical intervention that is part of a community’s effective homeless response system.
This form of assistance provides individuals and their families with short-term rental assistance and other necessary services. The assistance is offered without pre-conditions, such as, employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety.
The resources and services that are provided through rapid re-housing are most often tailored to the needs of the individual receiving them. It’s more of an individualized system than their counterparts (i.e., homeless shelter or transitional housing).
Rapid re-housing is the main solution for ending homelessness. Research has shown that those who receive rapid re-housing assistance are homeless for a shorter duration of time than those who are assisted through a homeless shelter or through transitional housing.
While rapid re-housing is still being studied, initial research does show that individuals and families, who are assisted by rapid re-housing programs, experience higher rates of permanent housing placement. Research also shows similar or lower rates of a return to homelessness after assistance ends, compared to those assisted by transitional housing or receiving emergency shelter.
Are You Eligible For Rapid Re-housing?
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) grants funding to service providers operating homelessness prevention programs.
To be eligible for rapid re-housing, households must meet all of following criteria:
One: Households must have an income that is 30 percent below the relevant Area Median Income (AMI) at the time of admission.
Two: Households must meet the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition for at-risk homelessness (literal homelessness) OR meet the criteria in paragraph 2, 3, or 4 of HUD’s definition for literal homelessness.
Definition of Homelessness 2: Imminent Risk of Homelessness
Individual or family who will immediately lose their primary nighttime residence provided that
Residence will be lost within 14 days of the individual’s (or family’s) application for homeless assistance
No subsequent residence has been identified, and the individual (or family) lacks the resources or support networks that are needed to obtain another permanent housing situation.
Definition of Homelessness 3: Homelessness under other Federal statutes
Unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 years of age, or families who have children and youth, who do not qualify under the definition of homelessness, but who are
Defined as homeless under other listed FEDERAL statutes.
60 days prior to their homelessness assistance application, and the applicant cannot have had a lease, ownership interest, or an occupancy agreement in permanent housing.
Have experienced persistent instability, which is measured by two or more moves during the preceding 60 days (the 60 days leading up to your application).
Expected to continue in such a status (number 3) for an extended period of time due to certain barriers or special needs and circumstances.
Definition of Homelessness 4: Fleeing/Attempting to Flee domestic violence
Any individual or family who is fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence
Must have no other residence, and must lack the resources or support networks that are needed to obtain other permanent housing.
Three: Households must lack resources and/or support networks that are necessary to prevent homelessness (i.e., family, friends, faith-based network, and other social networks, etc.,).
The only exceptions to these criteria, allowing eligibility, are households that can leave homelessness with little or even no assistance, those who experience chronic homelessness and need permanent supportive housing, as well as households who seek a therapeutic residential environment (including those in addiction recovery).
How “at risk of homelessness” is defined
There are three categories for identifying and defining those who are at risk of homelessness: Individuals and Families, Unaccompanied Children and Youth, and Families with Children or Youth.
Category One: Individuals and Families
An individual or family must have an annual income that is below 30 percent the median income of the area, and does not have sufficient, nor immediately available, resources or support networks that prevents them from moving to an emergency shelter or another place defined by Category 1 definition of “homeless.”
One of the following conditions must also be met to qualify for Category One:
The individual or family has moved twice because of economic reasons, or more times during the 60 days prior to their application for assistance.
Due to economic hardships, is living in the home of another has been notified that their right to occupy their current living situation will be terminated within 21 days after the date of their application for assistance.
Lives in a hotel or motel AND the costs not paid for by charitable organizations, Federal, State, or Local government programs for low-income households.
Is leaving a publicly funded institution of care.
Lives in housing that has characteristics associated with the instability, increased risk of homelessness, and as identified in the recipients approved Con Plan.
The individual or family lives in a hotel or motel, and the costs are not paid for by charitable organizations or by any branch of government programs for low-income households.
Lives in an SRO or efficiency apartment within which two or more persons live in a larger housing unit which reside more than one and a half persons per room.
Category Two: Unaccompanied Children and Youth
In order to be eligible for Category Two, a child or youth who does not quality as homeless UNDER the homeless definition but qualifies for homeless UNDER another state Federal statue.
Category Three: Families with children and youth
Those eligible for Category Three are unaccompanied youth, who do not qualify as homeless under the definition of homeless but do qualify as homeless under section 725(s) of the McKinney-Veto Homeless Assistance Act, and the parents or guardians of that child or youth if living with him or her.
How does Rapid Re-housing work?
There are several key goals of rapid re-housing, some of which are:
To help households quickly exit homelessness
Increase the number of households existing to permanent housing
Increase in a household self-sufficiency
Decrease the occurrence of homelessness overall
Rapid re-housing housing is designed to help individuals and their families to exit homelessness quickly and return to permanent housing living situations.
It is offered without preconditions and is regarded as a tailored package of assistance. Meaning, the tools provided are flexible and dictated by the specific goals of each client.
There are three main components to rapid re-housing:
The purpose of housing identification is to find housing for people quickly. The programs should recruit landlords on a continual basis, regardless if there are people who need housing at that moment in time. The more partnerships that are created earlier on, the greater chance that there will be rapid re-housing available in the times when those who need it, do.
Participants are matched with appropriate housing, so that even after assistance ends, the housing is decent, safe, and affordable/sustainable. A main foundation of this step is that the household or individual has a choice in their housing and not having it decided for them.
Limit the time a family or individual spends homeless. People move into housing within 30 days or less.
Rent and Move-in Assistance:
The goal of rent and move-in assistance is to help with the associated costs of getting into housing. The amount and duration of the assistance received varies, but it should at least be what is needed to help people secure a place to live.
Assistance is not a “standard package” but is flexible based on the individual needs of an individual, their situation, and family. This is crucial when financial circumstances and/or housing costs change.
Examples of assistance are paying for security deposits and move-in expenses and rent and utilities. This of assistance varies but often 4-6 months.
The purpose of rapid re-housing management is to help stabilize individuals and their families once they are placed in housing. This is done by connecting them to services and sources of support, if needed.
The focus is to help people navigate any and all barriers that may prevent them from securing and maintaining housing. There should also be an emphasis on building a support system through connecting with other people and programs within the community.
The assistance provided by rapid re-housing should end, and the case be closed, when the individual and family no longer faces the threat of homelessness. However, case management may continue if requested or appropriate.
Childcare, income/benefits, education, health care, employment (services and areas helped with.)
Case management is vital to, and the primary focus of, helping participants move into new housing that will ultimately be a stable living situation. Some examples of ways in which case managers should help are:
Resolving and mitigating tenant screening barriers
Obtaining necessary identification for the participant (if needed)
Supporting other move-in activities, such as, providing furniture
Preparing participants for successful occupancy of a home
How long does Rapid Re-housing last?
The typical length of this assistance is usually 6 months or less.
Rapid re-hosing programs often monetary assistance to cover the costs associated with move-in, deposits, and rental/utility assistance that is necessary to allow individuals and their families to leave homelessness and move into permanent and stable home.
Rapid re-housing will always be time-limited, and an individual can expect support for a projected time frame of 3-6 months.
Problems and challenges of Rapid Re-housing?
Families who exit from a rapid re-housing program experience significant challenges after only just one year (even when still housed!).
It is approximated that 70% of these families worry about food, 57% struggle with rent money, 14% have a child expelled or suspended from school within the last year, and 17% reported deteriorating health.
Since much is paid for by the government, individuals and families who receive rapid re-housing are obligated to pay 60% of their income to the landlord.
Another considerable problem is that there is a lack in “wraparound” services within the program of Rapid Rehousing. What this means is, there needs to be more help provided for families that include children and youths who have serious mental health challenges.
Can Rapid Re-housing end homelessness?
Yes, it can! Rapid re-housing is actually the primary solution for ending homelessness.
In fact, in 2016, as a result of rapid re-housing, homelessness was reported to have decreased by 30 percent; homelessness in families decreased by 37.5 percent, and homelessness of veterans decreased by 44 percent.
Since 2012, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs funding has provided rapid re-housing services for more than 220,000 veterans! And since 2014, investment in rapid re-housing for youths had increased by a whopping 20%
In 2016, as a result of rapid re-housing, homelessness was reported to have decreased by 30 percent; homelessness in families decreased by 37.5 percent, and homelessness of veterans decreased by 44 percent.
This form of housing assistance can end homelessness by connecting people with a home and service, quickly.
It is also shown to be effective in helping those who face homelessness obtain a home where they are better able to address other challenges that may have led to their situation.
Rapid re-housing is also less expensive than other interventions for the homeless, such as, emergency shelters or transitional housing.
While in a rapid rehousing program, families and individuals are connected with the much-needed services. These services provide support and guidance as they work towards stability, and the ability to maintain that stability.
The results of Rapid Re-housing can be life changing
With proper case management, guidance and assistance, rapid re-housing can be a foundational and successful program for individuals who are working towards a stable living situation and life.
Successful rapid re-housing programs connect homeless people to housing that will ultimately remove them from homelessness in its entirety.
Not only has rapid re-housing shown to be effective, but the help provided is at a fraction of the cost than that of other homeless crisis interventions, but without sacrificing quality and the benefits it provides to its participants.
Listen, we get it. You’re probably thinking that this is all too good to be true, or maybe, you’re sitting there thinking that, while you need this and want this for you and your family, it’s too complicated and the idea of connecting with someone to help is exhausting in itself.
Stop right there and breathe (please and thank you). One more time. Now another for the time you pretended to.
Remember, while you are seeking help, these resources are here for you, you are not here for them. You are one of many who are facing this challenge, it’s just that, no one is talking about it.
You are not alone, and you can ask for help. It’s not against the rules and is even encouraged more than anything. Participation in rapid re-housing does not have to be the start of this change in your life but can be part of it.
Use the resources in this article as well as the people in your life. Support systems come in all shapes and sizes; whether it’s family, friends, teammates, case managers, or others in your situation.
Please share in the comments below if rapid rehousing assistance has helped you get out of homelessness.