Best Practice | August 11, 2006
Hennepin County is a state and national leader in developing new tools to rapidly re-house families and individuals experiencing homelessness. The Rapid Exit Program is an innovative program that facilitates rapid re-housing by relying on early identification and resolution of a family's or individual's "housing barriers" and providing the assistance necessary to facilitate their return to permanent housing. Based on the assessment of a family or individual's housing barriers, a referral is made to a subcontracting agency best able to respond to the client's housing needs. This approach puts "housing" at the front and center of efforts to help people experiencing homelessness, prioritizing the rapid return to housing and providing the assistance necessary to achieve housing stability.
The target population of the Rapid Exit Program is those families and individuals who have moderate to severe barriers to obtaining market housing and are currently residing in the county funded shelter.
Within one week of entry to the county funded shelter, the family or individual is referred to a Rapid Exit Coordinator for a housing barrier assessment. The assessments incorporate a locally developed scale that reflects client characteristics and challenges that make local landlords reluctant to rent to a family or otherwise make locating housing difficult. To facilitate client disclosure, the Rapid Exit Coordinator services are sub-contracted to a private, non-profit agency to which the client can feel more comfortable sharing information. The Rapid Exit Coordinator also does criminal, credit and housing checks on the clients that are also likely to be done by prospective landlords.
Based on the assessment conducted by the Rapid Exit Coordinator, the individual or family is referred to one of the agencies Hennepin County has contracted with to provide clients with individualized assistance to locate and secure housing or provide transitional housing. Non-contracted agencies will also accept referrals from the Rapid Exit Coordinator.
The contract agencies will provide individualized assistance to locate and secure housing. Such assistance may include:
- Direct financial assistance for application fees, deposits and other household "start up" costs.
- Direct financial assistance to resolve other barriers to housing is provided as part of a pilot project and includes activities such as resolving outstanding debt.
- Legal assistance.
- Case management to resolve personal issues that are, or may become, barriers to achieving housing stability.
- Assistance securing furniture and food.
- Provision of short-term or longer-term transitional housing as indicated by the housing barrier assessment and need to reestablish a stable rental history.
- Provision of follow-up case management and referral to stabilize families in their homes following rapid reentry to permanent housing.
With a metropolitan housing vacancy rate under 1%, the county and contracting agencies are attempting to find innovative ways to seek and retain affordable housing. Such efforts to expand the supply of housing for very low income and homeless people include:
- Intervening to keep housing units affordable when housing developments for low income people are sold to a new owner.
- Advocacy to promote the "usability" of Section 8 vouchers by reducing landlord disincentives to entering the program.
- Providing dedicated staff time to locating potential housing units and developing an on-going relationship with landlords and responsible landlord association groups in their area.
- Paying double security deposits for those with poor rental history.
- Providing landlords up front Unlawful Detainer/Eviction costs deposits so the landlord will not absorb all of the risk.
- Co-signing leases.
- Paying holding fees, a new fee to keep an apartment available while the landlord considers the application of the "troubled" tenant, sometimes refundable, sometimes not.
- Remaining responsive and committed to provide on-going case management intervention with the client and assist the landlord in resolving issues that places the client's housing in jeopardy.
Source of Funding
Minnesota Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP) funds were instrumental in the development of the Rapid Exit Program. It continues to fund the Rapid Exit Coordinator and is used to provide the on-going case management and services that help stabilize individuals and families in homes that are not eligible activities or extend beyond the time limits set by HUD programs. Following the successful implementation of the Rapid Exit Program with state FHPAP funds, administrators sought HUD funding. The program relies on two HUD programs, the Supportive Housing Program (SHP) and Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG). As the HUD funding is typically more restrictive, FHPAP funds are used to complement and extend services.
Hennepin County contracts with the Wilder Research Center to maintain a data reporting and outcome system on individuals and families served by the Rapid Exit Program. According to the last biennium report, 2,463 families (8,976 members) were screened and referred by Rapid Exit Coordinator and 1,714 families (6,933 members) were served in Rapid Exit Program.
With a program targeted to those with moderate to severe barriers, the outcome data demonstrates great success. Even though 34% of families served by the Rapid Exit Program had been homeless before, only 9% returned to a shelter after receiving services funded by FHPAP in the following year and 85% did not return within two years. For those families that did return, their average stay in homelessness declined by more than half, from 29.5 days to 10 days.
For More Information Contact:
Adult Housing Program
A1501 Government Center
Minneapolis, MN 55487-0151