Rapid Re-Housing Works to Reduce Homelessness: New Evidence from The Urban Institute

Rapid re-housing is a short-term, crisis intervention model that has expanded in recent years to help households quickly, minimize the time spent homeless, prevent a return to homelessness, increase self-sufficiency, and ultimately end homelessness. In October 2018, The Urban Institute released a brief that reviews the evidence to date regarding the effectiveness of rapid re-housing in ending homelessness. The research shows:

  • The approach enables families and veterans to exit homeless shelters and live in housing units in the private rental market faster than they would on their own and for lower cost. 59% of the families who used rapid re-housing assistance spent an average of 2 months in shelter, while 41% of families who did not use assistance spent more than 5 months in shelter.
  • Rapid re-housing not only helps families exit shelter faster, but also ensures that they have a stable housing arrangement upon exit. Research shows that rapid re-housing effectively achieves the latter outcome, with at least 70% of those in Federal programs successfully securing permanent housing.
  • Most families and veterans do not become homeless again; though many struggle with ongoing housing affordability, like other low-income renters. Research found that most families who receive assistance do not reenter shelter at high rates – in fact, one study found that just 10% of families returned to shelter within 12 months of exiting the rapid re-housing program.
  • Several studies found that families and individuals who received rapid re-housing assistance were able to modestly increase their incomes during and after the program.
  • Rapid re-housing could be a scalable and cost-effective crisis response intervention that could help communities address homelessness more effectively. It is less expensive than emergency shelter and transitional housing. These savings result in substantial savings for the system, which can then serve more families or the same families for longer periods. The monthly cost of rapid re-housing per family is 82% less than the cost of shelter – providing flexible dollars to families to gain access to additional services.

There is still a lot to learn about the long-term implications of rapid re-housing for communities who implement the model, including system-level implications (impact on shelter capacity or overall numbers of homelessness) and if rapid re-housing can be effective in tight rental markets where vacancy rates are low and there is a short supply of affordable housing.

Advocacy and Communication Solutions (ACS) has worked with several organizations whose mission is to assist families through housing transitions. This includes Housing First, who works to reduce chronic homelessness, and A Place 4 Me, dedicated to prevent and end youth homelessness, both in Cuyahoga County (Ohio). ACS worked with both organizations to drive awareness and effective communication through planning, targeted messaging, and media outreach.

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