Field Notes: Retooling Transitional Housing, a Community Example

written by Kay Moshier McDivitt
October 3, 2012

At our conference this summer, I had the privilege of moderating a session on “Retooling Your Transitional Housing.” One of our speakers for the session was Vera Beech, Executive Director of Community Rebuilders in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The title of her presentation was “Families in Transition – a Successful Precedent for the Re-Design of Transitional Housing Programs.”

Vera shared with the participants the journey that Community Rebuilders took in 2007 to retool their scattered site traditional transitional housing program into a rapid re-housing approach. The program shift involved amending a HUD Supportive Housing Program-Transitional Housing (SHP-TH) grant, reallocating a $300,000 supportive service line item to the leasing budget. As a result of the shift, the renamed “Transitional Assistance” program is serving more households than before and achieving better housing outcomes, including reduced length of program stay and increased cost-effectiveness.

The retooled Transitional Assistance model is scattered site and uses private market rentals with the lease in the consumer’s name. The program uses a rapid re-housing approach with the length of program assistance, including rental assistance, averaging eight months. Significant changes included adopting a consumer centered and strength based approach, making service participation voluntary, emphasizing consumer housing choice, and all leases being in the consumer’s name where consumers can stay after program involvement ends. These changes increased stability for families and encouraged connections to their community.

Two key focuses that steered the retooling journey for Community Rebuilders included “readying the resources” and “keeping your eyes on your priorities.”  Vera shared that the retooling process took time, but by focusing on the resources at hand and the organization’s priorities, the retooled program resulted in an increased effectiveness in meeting the needs of the families experiencing homelessness in the Grand Rapids Community.

You can see Vera’s PowerPoint presentation from our conference here.