Economic Recovery Includes Addressing Increased Homelessness


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Federal Policy Brief | February 5, 2009

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Economic Recovery Includes Addressing Increased Homelessness
February 5, 2009 – The recession has already caused marked increases in homelessness in many communities. Without effective intervention, this trend is likely to continue, leading to an estimated 1.5 million increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness at some point over the next two years.
Both House and Senate economic recovery bills include $1.5 billion for one-time grants to state and local government, to prevent people from becoming homeless or quickly re-house those who become homeless. This program model has led to marked decreases in family homelessness when implemented by leading communities. The funding, combined with know-how that has improved dramatically over the past ten years, will give communities a fighting chance to avoid the kind of massive increases in homelessness that took place during the recession of the early 1980s.
The funding will be distributed based on the formula used in the Emergency Shelter Grants program, an existing HUD program that is part of the Homeless Assistance appropriations account. Cities and states provide the administrative infrastructure to handle grants of this size.   
Services will generally be provided through contracts with local nonprofit agencies. In each community, there is a solid network of homelessness agencies that already work with local and state government. This capacity can be quickly enhanced and brought to bear on implementing this provision.  Services include work with property owners, reunification with family, help with security deposits and temporary rental assistance, as well as social services to help people get jobs, establish benefits for people with disabilities, and otherwise make sure that people’s housing situations are stabilized. 
Prevention/re-housing programs based on this model have been effective at preventing homelessness: 
  • In New York City, the HomeBase prevention program was used in certain neighborhoods. Outcomes in those neighborhoods were compared to similar neighborhoods where HomeBase was not implemented. From 2004 to 2007, the HomeBase neighborhoods saw a 4.5% decrease in shelter entrants, while the rest of the city saw a 16% increase.  
  • Lancaster County, PA offers a simple rental counseling and financial assistance prevention program. Average cost is $900 per household. 95% avoid entering homelessness--67% retain current housing; 28% move to other rental housing.
  • Hennepin County, MN provides financial assistance, case management, and housing location for an average cost of $331 per family served. Only 3-4% become homeless again. Between 2000 and 2004, while family homelessness was rising in the rest of Minnesota, family homelessness in Hennepin decreased by 43 percent.