More Attention Needed to Adding Employment Assistance to Improve Stability in Rapid Re-Housing
January 3, 2017
Written by the NVTAC Blogger
Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) is concerned with helping households return to permanent housing after a homeless episode. Families who enter rapid RRH programs must be able to afford their rent when they leave the program, and many, though not all, RRH programs require a certain amount of income for entry or quickly after enrollment (Spellman, 2015). Thus, the importance of adding employment assistance to RRH needs more attention.
Assuming employment assistance is available, when is a good time to provide employment assistance to RRH participants? Before enrollment? After enrollment? Or after exiting RRH? Research shows that it may work best to provide employment assistance after an RRH participant regains permanent housing. From what we know, increase in income during RRH program participation is modest. For Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) households, the median monthly income increased from $251 at program entry to $450 at exit (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [VA], 2014).
Much like other households experiencing poverty, those that exit RRH are low income and likely to worry a great deal about putting food on the table, meeting their personal needs, and paying the next month’s rent (Cunningham, Gillespie, & Anderson, 2015).
RRH presents families with a significant challenge—they need an income sufficient to pay the rent, yet find it difficult to secure employment that pays enough to sustain themselves once housing assistance ends. With most RRH programs offering temporary, short-term rental assistance (3 to 9 months is usual), is the effort to find permanent housing all-consuming and participants thus lack the energy or focus to pursue job training or employment? Or can participants balance the demands of housing relocation with the demands of a job search?
About 84 percent of SSVF households receiving RRH or prevention services had permanent housing upon program exit (VA, 2014). Results for SSVF show that only 9 percent of veterans in families who exited to permanent housing had a homeless episode (i.e., were assessed and entered into HOMES, the VA’s homeless registry; entered VA specialized homeless programs; or entered SSVF RRH) within 12 months of RRH program exit (Byrne et al., 2014). Within 2 years, returns to homelessness increased to 16 percent of veteran families. The SSVF study found that the odds of experiencing a homeless episode after program exit were significantly higher among those with a history of homelessness and those who used VA healthcare in the previous year (Byrne et al., 2014).
Families who exited the HUD Rapid Re-housing for Homeless Families Demonstration still experienced significant challenges 1 year after exit (even when housed). In all, 70 percent worried about food security, 57 percent struggled with money for rent, 14 percent had a child expelled or suspended from school within the last year, and 17 percent reported deteriorating health (Oliva, 2014; Spellman, 2015).
Keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that RRH programs are not poverty intervention programs, but are designed to quickly house families and individuals that have become homeless or are at risk of homelessness. Part of a successful RRH intervention appears to include income supports and employment services very early on.
As a housing subsidy is short term in this model, clients should be assessed for job readiness, vocational aptitude and experience, and all the other employment-focused services as quickly as possible.
Matching RRH programs (such as SSVF) with employment programs (such as HVRP) makes perfect sense. This way the veteran receives employment services as they are being moved into housing. This co-mingling of employment and RRH services is an emerging practice. In communities without an HVRP, RRH programs should partner with veteran employment services at their local American Job Center.
HVRP grantees should make sure they know the RRH providers in their community and conduct outreach to them. This will ensure that RRH clients are plugged into employment services very early on. By doing so, clients have a much a better chance of keeping and affording housing over the long term. Far too often, RRH clients wait until their housing subsidy is ending before they seriously pursue work. By integrating employment services early on, RRH clients will be much more successful in maintaining permanent housing.
Byrne, T., Culhane, D., Kane, V., Kuhn, J, & Treglia, D. 2014. Predictors of homelessness following exit from the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. Philadelphia: VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Cunningham, M., Gillespie, S., & Anderson, J. 2015. Rapid re-housing: What the research says. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Oliva, A.M. 2015. Strategic use of transitional housing resources. PowerPoint presentation from the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Spellman, B. 2015. Family options study – Impact of housing and services interventions for homeless families: Findings from the interim report and Evaluation of the Rapid Re-housing for Homeless Families Demonstration Program. PowerPoint presentation from the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Abt Associates.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2014. Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF): FY 2013 Annual Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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Homeless Veteran Reintegration Programs (HVRPs) help veterans experiencing homelessness find their place in the workforce. HVRPs can be found at http://www.nvtac.org/grantees.
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Preparation of this item was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment Training Service under cooperative agreement HV25269-14-75-5-25. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the DOL, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government. The National Veterans Technical Assistance Center (NVTAC) is a partnership among Advocates for Human Potential (AHP), the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS).