The Promise of Partnerships

written by Sharon McDonald
February 5, 2013

At the community day center where I worked 20 years ago, we had a very rapid response to family homelessness. We worked closely with the local welfare department, which expedited cash benefits for families and provided other forms of assistance. With an easier rental housing market than families face today, the informal collaboration between homeless service providers who encountered families in crisis and the welfare agency that had resources to support them helped prevent families from experiencing long spells of homelessness. We need similar, but updated, partnerships today so that families have the support they require to quickly escape homelessness.

The upcoming National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness will include workshops that explore partnerships between Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) agencies and homeless service providers who are working together to rapidly re-house families in today’s more challenging economy and housing markets. Leaders from three communities (Boise, ID; Salt Lake City, UT; and Mercer County, NJ) will discuss with conference participants how they are blending resources and expertise from two service systems to rapidly re-house families.

In all three communities, families are succeeding in moving quickly out of homelessness and achieving housing stability. The three communities are using very similar approaches to achieve these results. Each community is providing families with help looking for housing, intensive case management, short-term rental assistance, and significant help with employment. These communities are devoting TANF resources to short-term rental assistance for families and HUD Emergency Solutions Grant funds (ESG) to supporting families who cannot be helped with TANF alone or who are ineligible for TANF assistance. They are also helping parents quickly find and maintain employment, which is a priority in each of the communities, because without employment, families will be unable to sustain the housing when the short-term assistance ends.

We at the Alliance have embraced a very ambitious goal: ending homelessness. And we know that homeless service providers cannot do it alone. There is simply not enough manpower or financial resources in the homeless service system to meet the needs of all people at-risk of experiencing homelessness. Ending homelessness requires collaboration, and these collaborations between homeless service providers and TANF agencies show great promise. Such partnerships can make a significant contribution to our fight to end family homelessness.

We look forward to learning more from New Jersey, Utah, and Idaho leaders about how they are working to coordinate homelessness and TANF resources to rapidly re-house and employ families at the upcoming conference.  We also look forward to learning about the many new collaborations between homeless service providers and mainstream resources. We will be sharing their innovative approaches with you in upcoming blogs.

Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle!