Check Out this Game that Shows How a Homeless Assistance System Works

written by Anna Blasco
January 29, 2014

At our New Orleans family and youth conference in February we will be playing the Homeless System Simulation Game on Monday, February 17. Unfortunately all the slots for that are full. However, you can still download the game materials and instructions to play it for yourself with your colleagues. What is the homeless system simulation and why should you play?

In the Continuum of Care NOFA, points are available for Continuums of Care that demonstrate that they are increasing the number of units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and rapid re-housing for families with children. HUD is prioritizing these interventions because evidence supports their effectiveness for these populations.

It is one thing to hear something is effective, but sometimes you need to see something to believe it. That is why we developed the Homeless System Simulation Game and made it available for you to download and play. The game mimics in a simplified way how a homelessness assistance system works, and is based on actual data from communities.

Here is how it works – seven players around a table are assigned one of the following roles – Intake, Emergency Shelter, Rapid Re-Housing, Outreach, Transitional Housing, or Permanent Supportive Housing. Each player accepts people, represented by beads, into their program based on the parameters of that program type throughout the course of the game. (The person playing the Permanent Supportive Housing role will realize, for example, that they rarely have openings because people stay in their program for a very long time.)

The most interesting part is when players are given an opportunity to decide at various points whether to add a new program or convert one program type into another program type. Players contemplate decisions your community may be considering such as - will building another emergency shelter have a greater impact than expanding rapid re-housing? The players then get to see how these decisions affect how many people are exiting their homeless system to permanent housing.