What is Rapid Re-housing Anyway?

written by Stuart Campbell
March 24, 2014

So what is this rapid re-housing everyone seems to be talking about?

As evidence mounts, rapid re-housing is emerging as a promising strategy to end homelessness. Early examples of rapid re-housing began to emerge as a promising strategy to address homelessness in cities and counties in the late 1980s. Initially a “housing first” strategy, the concept of rapid re-housing places a priority on moving the family or individual experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible, and has grown to include a unique blend of services, supports, and connections to benefits and employment.

Preliminary studies have shown that rapid re-housing can quickly get a family or individual who is experiencing homelessness off of the street, and more importantly, significantly reduce the rate of returning to homelessness. Studies have shown that between 80 to 90 percent of families that exit rapid re-housing programs do not return to homelessness, significantly higher than other common strategies.

Rapid re-housing focuses on placing program participants into permanent housing without regard to preconditions, such as sobriety or income. However, confusion among providers over exactly which components are necessary to make up a rapid re-housing program continues. For instance, some organizations have adopted the name “rapid re-housing,” but are operating programs with requirements such as participation in services; a clean record; limit the time a client may stay in a unit; or keep the lease in the organization’s name.

And while rapid re-housing is increasingly gaining traction among federal agencies and local providers, there has been no clear national consensus of the core components of rapid re-housing.

That is, until now.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the Alliance, recently agreed upon a set of components that every rapid re-housing program should share.

  • Housing identification – Identify landlords willing to lease to tenants with potential barriers to housing; assist clients identify their housing choices; support landlords as challenges emerge.
  • Rent and move-in assistance – Provide financial support to cover move-in costs, utility costs, security deposits, and rent.
  • Rapid re-housing case management and support – Provide clients access to client-directed, customized, and voluntary services, including tenant-landlord relations, employment, benefit eligibility, and crisis resolution.

The full, one-page list of core components can be found here.

Having a common understanding and agreement of the core components of rapid re-housing is essential to its success. For a program to be implemented and evaluated, especially in comparison to other strategies, there must be uniform understanding of what that program entails. These core components are the beginning of that greater understanding – and ultimately adoption – of rapid re-housing.

While there is still much to learn, rapid re-housing is a promising strategy to address homelessness that is already producing positive results. It requires coordination and commitment from landlords and partners in the community, and its very time-limited nature means it is not meant to solve the broader issues of poverty and affordable housing. However, it is an important component of quickly moving families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness back into permanent housing.