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Rapid Rehousing Gets People Back on Their Feet Without a Shelter Stay

Rapid Rehousing Gets People Back on Their Feet Without a Shelter Stay

Rapid rehousing. You may not have heard the term, but you’ll be glad to know that this process is credited with keeping people out of shelters, getting them back on their feet more quickly, and for driving down the cost of addressing homelessness.

You also may not realize it, but it’s expensive for municipalities to house someone in a homeless shelter … in fact, nearly three times the cost of solving the problem that led to homelessness and actually returning them to independent living. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the average amount spent on rehousing is about $6,600, while the price tag for the average emergency shelter weighs in at about $16,900.

So, what is rapid rehousing? Instead of assuming that a shelter is the default solution for anyone without housing, this approach focuses on problem-solving.  What led to the homelessness? What is a short-term housing option, for instance staying with family? What is a long-term solution, for instance interceding with a landlord?

The homeless are not left on their own to tackle these issues. Case managers work with individuals and families who already have temporary housing. Their job is to help strategize rehousing and recovery by identifying resources and benefits that can lift burdens that perhaps led to the loss of housing.

“Rapid rehousing successfully connects people experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and helps them exit homelessness faster – at a fraction of the cost of other homelessness crisis interventions, like shelter and transitional housing.” –National Alliance to End Homelessness

Here’s an example:

A family of four is evicted from their apartment because money they had earmarked for rent was paid to cover unexpected medical costs. They are temporarily living with friends but know that they can’t impose much longer.

The first thing the case manager does is help them define short-term and long-term goals. Eventually they would like to return to their former apartment because it is convenient to the husband’s job and the kids’ school. Right now, they might be able to stay with one of the mom’s coworkers, but she is ashamed to ask.

The case worker helps the mom strategize how to ask the coworker for help and then refers the family to a local healthcare clinic (as a way of helping them better manage future healthcare costs). Thereafter, the case worker negotiates with the family’s former landlord. This results in an agreement for payment of rental arrears that is covered by nonprofit or public funding.

Here are the headline benefits of rapid rehousing:

  • Families are homeless for less time, returning to stable housing three months faster than those who go to a shelter.
  • Rehousing costs about one-third less than housing someone in a shelter.
  • Families that rent housing with the help of rapid rehousing case workers are significantly less likely to return to homelessness than those who do not.
  • System efficiency improves by removing those who can be helped without shelter more quickly and inexpensively.

Rapid rehousing is just one of the many newer ways communities are truly solving the problem of homelessness. The shelter used to be the answer for everyone. Now, it is the option of last resort, a lifted burden for municipal budgets, and for the people experiencing homelessness.

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