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Case Management and Support: A Rapid Re-housing Core Component
July 2, 2014
Over the last month or so, I’ve been writing a lot about the core components of rapid re-housing. As a refresher, there are three, overarching components of the rapid re-housing strategy. I’ve already written about the first two, Housing Identification and Housing Move-in and Rent Assistance. Today I’m going to write about the third and final component: Case Management and Support.
I like to compare the three components to the three legs of a stool. Each component is just as important and vital to the successful implementation of rapid re-housing as the other. Remove one, and the whole process tumbles down. If you have read about the other two components, you know that they are fairly straightforward and easy to summarize. What distinguishes the Case Management and Support component is not its importance, but its complexity.
As the title suggests, the case management and support component is the services side of rapid re-housing; where short to mid-term assistance that a family may require to obtain and retain permanent housing is outlined.
The case management and support component is made up of several elements. Some are pretty self-explanatory, such as connecting households to appropriate housing options; addressing issues like poor credit history and arrears; and working with them as they navigate the leasing process. We go into more detail in our larger paper here, but for the purposes of this blog post, let’s just touch on some of the highlights.
One of the first things I’d like to underscore here is that the services offered to households must be tailored to each household’s unique needs. Every family is different, and the barriers they face in achieving housing stabilization will be varied and potentially numerous. We cannot provide every homeless family with the same types of services and expect to achieve the same outcome every time. That’s why one of the keys to the success of rapid re-housing is flexibility of services.
Initially, services should be aimed at moving the household quickly into permanent housing. Afterwards, the case manager or program specialist working with a household should monitor a household’s progress and be prepared to provide assistance to address any crises that may prevent the household from remaining stably housed. The duration and frequency of this monitoring will depend on the needs of the family.
In addition to being flexible, services must be fairly comprehensive. If the organization providing the family with rapid re-housing doesn’t have a service the family wants and requires, the organization should be able to connect the family to a provider that does.
Finally, the services provided need to be “client-directed, respectful of individuals’ right to self-determination, and voluntary.” I’m taking this language directly from the core components. Some federal programs may require participation in specific services, but rapid re-housing as a strategy is completely voluntary, and individual programs should not set additional restrictions on clients.
For some homeless households, all they may need to exit homelessness is financial assistance to remove the barriers to their housing. Other households will require significantly more assistance and access to multiple services for a longer period of time. The beauty of rapid re-housing is that it can expand to meet the needs of virtually any family or individual experiencing homelessness.