By Jamey Burden, Vice President, Housing Programs and Policy
Five months ago, families facing homelessness would have to enter the overcrowded and expensive shelter system. Now, our city is equipped with a new intervention: the Homeless Prevention Program. The program, which was developed by the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness, is modeled from a New York City program.
DC’s program, launched in October 2015 and directed by the Department of Human Services, incorporates a screening tool to identify those families most likely to enter the shelter system. There are four non-profit agencies administering prevention assistance: Capitol Hill Group Ministry, MBI, Wheeler Creek, and Community of Hope. A variety of different services are offered to families, including mediation, case coordination, housing search, connection to employment and community services, budgeting, financial assistance, and utility assistance.
Also benefiting from the critical experience of the Program’s research partner, Westat, we are now able to hone in on the most effective strategies available to prevent homelessness. So far, DC has served more than 1,000 families in this new program. Of those, 425 have already exited services, 104 have moved into their own apartments, and only about 10 percent have had to enter the shelter system. The average cost of assistance per family is under $1,000. By comparison, the average cost of just a one-month shelter stay is about $3,500. And in human terms, we know that the cost is much greater, as emergency shelter has such a negative effect on the stability of families, especially children. We are excited about our work in the last five months and heartened to see the results so far. We are grateful to the Mayor, the City Council, and the Department of Human Services for their efforts to bring this program into existence. We also look forward to the learning opportunities this work continues to offer in order to further improve and expand our efforts to prevent homelessness across our community.
5 months + 1000+ families + Homelessness Prevention services = 90% of families stably housed!