Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Communities

written by Marisa Seitz
August 4, 2010
Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald,  Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance. Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession. With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and - most importantly - the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families. This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF). Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prevention programs screening out those families most likely to become homeless because they seem unable to pay for housing independently after receiving assistance? Are rapid re-housing programs implemented broadly enough to reduce the strain on shelters and transitional housing programs and reduce the likelihood that families will be refused shelter? Are local programs coordinated around a common vision for ending family homelessness to improve access and efficiency of resources community-wide? Are stakeholders engaged in evaluating data to assess the impact of the local investments in ending homelessness and making modifications to improve performance? Our new report Ending Family Homelessness: Lessons From Communities examines the promising strategies communities are using to end family homelessness by making the most of available resources. These promising strategies can be replicated, adapted, and refined to improve our communities’ and our nation’s responses to families facing homelessness. For more information about family homelessness, check out the website. Don't forget guys, the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund is an effective, efficient program that plays a significiant role in preventing and ending family homelessness. Act now to keep it from disappearing forever.