How Program Philosophy and Design Standards Contribute to a Stronger Rapid Re-Housing Program

written by Jen Saunders
March 24, 2016

In my last two blog posts about the new Rapid Re-Housing Performance Benchmarks and Program Standards, I examined the performance benchmarks as well as the rapid re-housing core component program standards. In this final blog in our series, I will focus on how the program philosophy and design standards can provide additional guidance on the broader role a rapid re-housing program should play in ending homelessness.

PROGRAM DESIGN AND PHILOSOPHY

For rapid re-housing to effectively address homelessness, the program must coordinate with the broader system.  That means establishing a commitment to a Housing First approach.

Why? Because a Housing First approach means that a program will work towards moving households into housing quickly without preconditions. As such, programs should maximize the number of households they can serve by coordinating with the local homeless assistance system’s coordinated entry and outreach efforts.  The primary focus of assessments and assistance should be on resolving the current housing crisis and therefore, everything possible should be done to ensure that those served by rapid re-housing do not become homeless again.

Programs should also abandon the practice of screening out households based on criteria that are assumed to predict successful outcomes.  Rapid re-housing has been successful at addressing the housing needs of households with high barriers. 

PROGRAM DESIGN STANDARDS

Highlights from the eleven program philosophy and design standards, specifically those related to program staffing, policy, and activities, are described below.

Program staffing standards describe:

  • The need for training on Housing First and basic program philosophy of rapid re-housing.

Program policy standards address:

  • The need for well-define screening processes;
  • Eligibility criteria criteria that do not include a period of sobriety, a commitment to participation in treatment, or any other criteria designed to “predict” long-term housing stability;
  • If not already prioritized through coordinated entry, clearly-defined and written criteria and procedures that enable it to prioritize applicants;
  • Disabilities are only assessed insofar as they may be a direct factor causing past housing instability or loss and ability to obtain a disability-specific benefit, service, or accessible unit; and
  • The need for legally binding, written leases.

Program activities standards include:

  • Participation in the local community’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS);
  • Participation in and acceptance of referrals from the coordinated entry system and participation in efforts to improve the efficiency and quality of referrals;
  • The need to maintain and distribute information on alternative, available resources that may intervene effectively and rapidly if the program’s services are unavailable or less effective; and
  • An ongoing performance improvement process that includes evaluation of participant outcomes and participant feedback.

For those interested in learning more about the accompanying principles and rationale, be  sure to take a look at the full Rapid Re-Housing Performance Benchmarks and Program Standards document or tune in to our webinar on March 24.