Beyond Shelter, Los Angeles, CA


Best Practice | August 11, 2006

Beyond Shelter was founded in 1988 in response to increasing numbers of homeless families in Los Angeles and the need for a more comprehensive approach to serving them. Today, the mission of Beyond Shelter is to combat chronic poverty, welfare dependency and homeless-ness among families with children, through the provision of housing and social services and the promotion of systemic change. The agency's programs in Los Angeles County serve as a laboratory for the development of cutting-edge methodologies to help guide the development of both social policy and service delivery mechanisms nationwide. Beyond Shelter, Inc. has been the national leader in the development and promotion of "housing first" strategies to re-house families experiencing homelessness. Beyond Shelter provides technical assistance nation-wide for communities interested in adopting a housing first approach, holds annual training conferences, and runs their own housing first program in Los Angeles, California.

Target Population
Beyond Shelter's Housing First program serves homeless families with children and has been set up to serve the emergency shelter/transitional housing continuum of a large, metropolitan city. The Housing First Program methodology relies primarily upon the existing homeless services system in Los Angeles for outreach, crisis intervention and short-term stabilization of homeless families. More than 50 agencies throughout the Los Angeles area -- shelters, transitional housing programs, residential drug treatment programs, domestic violence programs, social service agencies, and homeless access centers -- refer homeless families to Beyond Shelter for the "next step", after they have provided initial emergency or interim services.


The majority of families served each year are families facing multiple challenges who have unstable living patterns and/or histories of homelessness. Approximately 90% of 400 homeless families enrolled each year are headed by a single parent. Approximately 50% of mothers are in recovery and approximately 40% became homeless due to domestic violence. The average age of parents is 30 years old, and the average number of children is 4. Approximately 20% of mothers are pregnant upon enrollment. Approximately 25% of families have histories of child maltreatment and/or neglect. Mothers in recovery have often had children removed to foster care before their mothers sought treatment.


Beyond Shelter requires that an adult family member with a history of substance abuse have at least six months in a recovery program (post-treatment, post-detox) before moving into permanent housing. Similarly, Beyond Shelter requires that families who have experienced domestic violence have at least four months of separation from their abusive partner.


Program Description

Homeless families are referred to the "Housing First" Program for (1) assistance in moving into permanent, rental housing in residential, and then (2) the provision of home-based case management support for six months after the move, to help them transition to stability. The over-riding goal of the program is to return homeless families to permanent housing as rapidly as possible.


Referred families meet with Intake Workers at the Beyond Shelter offices for screening and needs assessments. Upon enrollment, the family and Beyond Shelter staff work together to develop an individualized Family Action Plan. This plan identifies the family's housing and social service needs and the steps necessary to assist the family in moving towards stability in permanent housing.


Beyond Shelter Housing Relocation staff then assists families in relocating to affordable, rental housing in residential neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County, usually within three months of enrollment. Families are assisted in negotiating leases, accessing move-in funds, and overcoming the barriers of poor credit history, prior evictions, and discrimination based on ethnicity, family size and income source. Through targeted Section 8 programs, approximately 75% of are assisted in obtaining a Section 8 subsidy. Beyond Shelter builds and maintains close working relationships with private sector building managers, non-profit affordable housing providers, local state and federal housing assistance programs. The fact that there exists a support system for their tenants motivates many private landlords to participate in the program.


Each family is also assigned a case manager, who provides individualized case management support as the family carries out its Family Action Plan. This support begins during the housing relocation phase and continues with home-based case management after the family has moved into their new home. Case management services are time-limited and transitional. The primary function of case management is assessing the needs of the family, developing a plan of action to attain identified objectives, linking families to community resources and advocating on their behalf, and monitoring the progress of families. Families are supported as they reorient to stable living patterns, and are provided assistance with homemaking, nutrition, parenting education, money management, child care, job training, job placement, and job retention. After initial, intensive contact, the focus is on linking families to mainstream programs and resources to meet their on-going and/or special needs.


The "housing first" methodology provides a critical link between the emergency shelter/transitional housing systems and the community-based and governmental services and resources that are often fragmented, difficult to access or simply not available to homeless families trying to attain stability and independence in permanent housing.


The program methodology facilitates the move into move into permanent housing for homeless families and then engages the newly-housed family in a progressive set of individualized case management activities and interventions for a limited period of time, as they move toward improved social and economic well-being. The "housing first" methodology is premised on the belief that multi-problem and at risk families are often more responsive to interventions and support after they are in their own housing, rather than still living in housing programs that are temporary or transitional.


Source of funding

Originally funded primarily through demonstration program funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), primary funding for the Housing First Program has been provided since 1996 primarily through the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), particularly the Supportive Housing Program (SHP), supplemented by a variety of local, state, and federal contracts and private foundation funding.


Available Data

From 1989-2001, the program enrolled over 2,500 homeless families, with approximately 2,200 relocated to, and stabilized in, permanent housing. The Housing First Program has been tested and refined through several national demonstration projects implemented by Beyond Shelter for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Better Homes Fund. In 1990-1993, Beyond Shelter designed and implemented the Los Angeles Early Intervention


Demonstration Project for Recently Homeless and At-Risk Families (in collaboration with Para Los Ninos), with an evaluation by a UCLA researcher. In 1992-1995, the home-visitation model was expanded through the HHS Family Support Center Demonstration Project, conducted over four years for over 250 homeless families.


As part of the Pew Partnership initiative, Wanted: Solutions for America, a two-year evaluation of Beyond Shelter's Housing First program has recently been conducted by researches from University of Southern California, coordinated by Rutgers University. Data on 185 families were collected from April 1, 2000 to October 1, 2001, based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) Program Logic Model for Homeless Families. More than 90% of the mothers who graduated the program at the end of six months in permanent housing had achieved the short, intermediate and long-term goals identified in the SAMHSA Logic Model and over 80% of the children's were achieved. Over 80 % of adults were attached to the labor force through employment, and others were enrolled in job training programs. Only 2.3 % of those who entered the program with reported substance abuse problems had relapsed and .4 % of domestic violence survivors had returned to a dangerous relationship.


Recognition for the Housing First Program for Homeless Families includes the following:

  • One of "25 US Best Practices,” representing the United States at the United Nations Conference, Habitat II, held in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996
  • One of "100 International Best Practices," chosen by The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Nairobi, Kenya) in 1996 for dissemination worldwide.
  • Non-Profit Sector Award, National Alliance to End Homelessness, 1996

For More Information Contact:
Tanya Tull
President and CEO
Beyond Shelter
1200 Wilshire Blv. Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 252-0772
Fax: (213) 480-0846