Housing Identification: A Rapid Re-housing Core Component

written by Stuart Campbell
May 22, 2014

If you checked out the Core Components of Rapid Re-housing, you probably noticed it’s a pretty short, concise document. We created it to identify the basic elements that every rapid re-housing program must contain. While we were working with federal agencies to hammer out the list, we wanted to make sure that the end document was easy enough to quickly read and digest. Mission accomplished, right?

Well, not so fast. When dealing with something as complex as a strategy to end homelessness, we get that it would be helpful if we went into a bit more detail on each of the three, overarching components. If you want to take it in all at once, we have a longer document here, but in today’s blog post, let’s take a look at the first core element on the list: Housing Identification.

While it’s a pretty innocuous term, Housing Identification is really critical to the success of any rapid re-housing program. Housing identification is so much more than just finding a home for a household experiencing homelessness. In fact, the primary “customer” in this context isn’t the household at all, but the landlord.

Without landlords willing to lease to a wide range of clients – many with challenging backgrounds – there is no rapid re-housing. Keeping in mind that in rapid re-housing, the lease is in the name of the tenant, which means that the household receiving rapid re-housing support is subject to credit and background checks just like any other tenant. For many households experiencing homelessness, this is a show-stopper.

This is why it is critical for rapid re-housing providers to have relationships with a number of different landlords throughout their service area. Depending on the number of clients you serve, the number of landlords in your “stable” could be in the hundreds. Not units, mind you, but actual landlords.

Getting a landlord to initially agree to work with your clients takes time. Landlords raise legitimate concerns about leasing to households with poor credit or housing histories. It would be great if landlords would overlook these challenges for altruistic reasons, but in reality, many landlords may require assurances that the sponsoring organization will step up to the plate if something goes wrong.

Many providers do this through a variety of ways. Some have set aside a pot of money that will be used in the event a tenant is evicted, breaks the lease, or damages the property. Others have established a 24-hour contact that the landlord can call in the event of a crisis related to the tenant in their property. Others wine and dine landlords, recognizing them for their involvement, and generally making them feel positive about the important role they are playing in solving homelessness.

However it is done, rapid re-housing providers must make sure landlords feel confident that their legitimate concerns will be addressed in the event that a problem arises. Landlords are often used to dealing with difficult situations, and having assurances from providers that they will not be facing these issues alone will go a long way toward calming their nerves.

Of course, the final step in housing identification is connecting households with appropriate landlords. A successful rapid re-housing program not only knows their clients, they know their landlords, and are able to make a good match.

As important as it is to work with households experiencing homelessness – this is why you are doing this work, after all – the first step in a successful rapid re-housing program is almost exclusively focused on landlord recruitment and retention. Once you’ve done this, you can move onto implementing the remaining two core components of rapid re-housing, which I will cover in later blog posts. Stay tuned!