At this year's National Symposium on Solutions to End Youth Homelessness, we promised that questions for panelists would be answered online if they weren't answered in person! See below for panelist to the most frequently asked questions about rapid re-housing (RRH).
Q: What are other housing options for youth who don’t do well in RRH following a RRH stay? Can they move into supportive housing?
A: Yes! Participating in RRH does not make a young adult ineligible for permanent supportive housing. According to HUD, “Program participants maintain their chronically homeless status during the time period that they are receiving the rapid re-housing assistance. Rapid re-housing is a model for helping homeless individuals and families obtain and maintain permanent housing, and it can be appropriate to use as a bridge to other permanent housing programs.”
Q: Can you give any more information about preparing youth to live with roommates and what happens when a roommate doesn’t pay rent? Do they co-sign the lease?
A: Each roommate signs their own lease, even if they are partners or otherwise chosen family. This gives each roommate legal tenancy rights independent from their roommate. Check out this roommate matching survey from Jericho Project! Honest, facilitated discussions between potential roommates as well as the opportunity to meet-and-greet before moving in together are important. Going over roommate preferences (smoking in the house, noise, guests, tidiness etc) is also helpful. Maintaining a low case manager to youth ratio (12:1 is ideal; 15:1 is good) helps make sure that staff have the time and energy to help mediate roommate conflicts as they arise.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Youth Rapid Re-housing Learning Community published this great resource on shared housing. They point out:
As with any roommate situation, shared housing is not without its challenges. For example, there may be roommate discord or a sudden employment change may impact the financial stability of a household. The key to addressing these challenges it to be flexible, develop and keep strong landlord relationships, and maintain a person-centered approach that builds on the strengths of program participants. Clear lines of communication with the program, the participants, and the landlord are needed, as well as the flexibility to make changes if issues arise. Additional concerns may arise when roommates are also intimate partners, and clarity about shared housing roles and expectations can be even more important in those situations.
Q: Is it possible to use RRH funds to do a host home model while you develop a RRH program?
A: This is a great question! Last year, HUD released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for joint transitional housing / rapid re-housing programs, which the National Alliance to End Homelessness describes in greater detail here. Through this NOFA, you could use host homes as transitional housing, including bridge housing for youth who will be enrolled in rapid re-housing but are not yet in their apartments.
Q: (for Jericho Project) Of the 49 youth who received permanent housing in an average of 55 days, was the rent subsidized? What happens when the subsidy ends? What happens if a youth ends up needing supportive housing but they are no longer eligible because they have been permanently housed in RRH for the past year?
A: All of the rent is currently being subsidized with rapid re-housing rental assistance. We plan to end this assistance within one year because we believe most young adults can successfully gain the income needed to succeed on their own in this time. Even though NYC has very high rent, there are also a lot of great homeless prevention resources. Many of our young adults are receiving $215 monthly rental assistance from public assistance. Some may also qualify for housing vouchers if they cannot pay for housing on their own afterwards. If something unexpected comes up and they fall behind, we have taught them how to apply for a One Shot Deal to pay for their rental arrears.
Rapid re-housing is great because it is flexible. There are lots of other ways besides rental assistance to help someone remain stable. Lastly, all rapid re-housing participants retain their homeless status while in the program. This means that for the few that do need a higher level of care, like supportive housing, they will still qualify. We actually have two young adults moving from their own apartments into supportive housing next month!
Q: (for Jericho Project) Are the youth living in RRH at Jericho Project living with roommates or on their own before transitioning to permanent housing?
A: Rapid re-housing is permanent housing! Before entering our program all of our young adults were living in emergency shelter on the streets. We help house them with a lease in their own name, between them and the landlord. Most of them live with roommates because it’s more affordable, but a few live on their own as well.
Q: What would disqualify a youth from entering a RRH program?
A: HUD regulations allow for Continuum of Care (CoC) funded RRH programs to enroll youth who are considered homeless under any of the four categories in the Homeless Definition Final Rule. CoCs may place additional requirements locally. For Emergency Service Grant (ESG) funded RRH, youth meet the Category 1 definition of literal homelessness.
Q: (for Jericho Project) Were youth employed at time of intake? How many of the 49 youth are off of program housing subsidies? Did you house youth at the program until they were matched?
A: Some of our participants were employed at intake, but many were not. The average income of a young adult at time of intake is $725 per month. Two of our young adults are off program subsidy who moved out of state with family or significant others. The rest are still receiving rental assistance, because we just started with our first participant in May 2017. In the time it takes to find housing (an average of 55 days) most of the young adults remain in shelter or on the streets. Some may start staying with a family member or friend who are more willing to let them stay temporarily, now that there is a plan to help them find their own housing quickly.
Q: What is the best way to make “housing first” work with an RRH model? What is the best way to make youth aware of our services?
A: You can’t have RRH without having housing first. Housing first does work, you just have to do it and trust the process. It is a lot easier for people to get stable, access services, and maintain employment when they have a safe place to sleep at night. There will definitely be some bumps along the way, and some naturally occurring consequences you can’t protect your participants from and that’s okay. It’s a learning process for everybody. You just have to consistently offer support and services and hope that something will stick. By being consistent and genuine, you are making sure the young adults you serve know where to go when they’re ready for your help.
Q: What are some best practices when working with youth in RRH Programs that are unwilling or unable to find employment and in turn can’t pay their portion of rent?
The key to a successful, youth-centered RRH program is flexibility and creativity, which can be hard and require staff training and support! If youth are not finding employment to pay their portion of the rent, a best practice is to explore what is happening for them. Are emotional and mental health concerns a barrier to seeking or maintaining employment? Sometimes stable housing can provide the safety or stability for other needs, like mental health needs, to arise. Perhaps that means youth need a longer subsidy or a different type of supportive housing. Are there employment options locally that work for youth and pay a livable wage? In many places, these opportunities are rare. Another best practice is partnering with local businesses and workforce development programs to forge pathways to employment, described in greater detail in this report from Heartland Alliance.
Thank you Kelly O'Sullivan, Managing Program Director at Jericho Project, for helping respond to audience questions!