While the numbers can be difficult to swallow, over half a million people experienced homelessness in the United States in 2022. In direct response to the homelessness crisis, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021. This plan offered $1.9 trillion in funding for economic instability after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of that large sum, $10 billion went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to offer support to communities through the Emergency Housing Voucher and the HOME Investment Partnerships Programs.
This groundbreaking act shows that the federal government has a priority to end homelessness in the United States. But as anyone who works at a non-profit knows, they can’t do it alone. Communities must work together to coordinate strategies and find the solution for homelessness in their area.
With the addition of helpful strategies like the ones listed below and funds from the federal government, there has been a slower increase in homelessness. While homelessness as a whole has increased by 6% since 2017, it only increased by 0.3% from 2020 to 2022.
Continual implementation of these strategies ensures a winning fight against homelessness in America.
Problems cannot be solved unless they’re identified. A crucial first step to helping people that are homeless is to reach out and understand their needs. Set up a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) within your non-profit and community.
This system allows you to collect data on services available in the community, help that clients need, and facts about how people and families are at risk for homelessness. And every governing body under HUD must operate a thorough HMIS under their standards.
Look to these standards as a guideline for communities and talk with local officials to see how non-profits can access or contribute to this data collection.
Some of the data collection required under HUD includes, but is not limited to:
Utilizing HMIS software is the best way to collect and store data to access it easily and remain compliant with federal, state, and local standards.
The federal government recommends that state and local leaders look to the community to create systems to house the homeless. While this update was given in 2022, it remains relevant today. Communities must join together to create goals in two specific areas:
To meet these goals, set up a system of coordinated intake. When someone comes to an agency for help, the entire community can use the same system to match those in need to relevant housing assistance and other critical services.
When the entire community is involved, non-profits and government leaders can secure those in crisis with housing as fast as possible through their connections. This also prevents new cases of homelessness by offering resources before someone is evicted from their home.
The federal government cares deeply about the homelessness crisis, so local communities should look to secure federal housing assistance for the members of their unhoused populations.
One of the most successful federal housing programs is the Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8 Vouchers) from HUD. Every state has local field offices that can help navigate public housing funding, so contacting that office can be a great place to start.
The vouchers offered through this program allow residents to rent market-rate housing with a subsidy that diminishes once their income rises. By securing these vouchers, people that are homeless can become housed (or circumvent homelessness altogether) and leave the shelter system.
Other critical federal housing resources to provide a solution for homelessness include
A key way to prevent extended homelessness is to get individuals and families back into housing as quickly as possible. The best way to do so is to secure adequate housing for what’s referred to as rapid re-housing.
This idea identifies available housing so people at risk of homelessness can be moved in quickly, offers rental and move-in assistance so that the group stays housed, and offers case management services so that individuals can find employment to afford rent and basic needs.
The truth is, it’s much easier to find solutions for people that are homeless once they’re in a house. For example, most employers require a mailing address for a residence. Getting immediate housing expedites the process and keeps people out of the shelter system.
One of the biggest obstacles to rapid re-housing is finding landlords willing to offer their homes. Landlords need to be recruited continuously for these programs to work. Securing funding for rental assistance can be a helpful way to assure landlords they’ll receive their rent payment every month.
The costs of re-housing are much lower for communities as a whole, so it’s a great way to make the most of available resources. A rapidly re-housed family requires $6,578 on average, while transitional housing costs $32,557 per family.
Robust case management systems are a critical solution for homelessness. Every non-profit or community resource center must implement thorough case management to connect unhoused people to the services they need and evaluate the performance of these systems.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council outlines the goal of case management for individuals experiencing homelessness: “to ensure timely access to and coordination of
fragmented medical and psychosocial services for an individual while considering costs, preventing duplication of services, and improving health outcomes.”
Case management connects people to the services they need and prevents wasted community resources. While the levels of case management will differ vastly depending on the needs of the individual, the main components include
Every action taken to prevent homelessness in a community must be evaluated from time to time to ensure the money is spent properly and housing goals are met. HUD has instituted system performance measures to encourage CoCs and people working with homeless assistance to track gains and losses.
This data must be reported to HUD, which offers multiple tools to help you do so. Stella P (for performance) and Stella M (for modeling) improve housing crisis response systems and develop need estimates to better use the resources available.
One of the best ways to synthesize all of these strategies in one place is through the use of homeless management information systems, or HMIS software. This allows for access to critical data anywhere it’s needed and provides real-time data for homeless needs at the tip of your fingers, including items such as available shelter beds and housing units.
With HMIS software, you can:
Organization can be a critical issue for housing non-profits and government agencies. If the information is not easily accessible, then it can be difficult to know what’s already been done for a client and what else is left to do. With HMIS software, all of the information is in one place, so you can check for progress and make snap decisions on what needs to happen next.
Elevate your non-profit’s ability to tackle homelessness in America with robust HMIS software from PlanStreet. Our software meets the HUD baseline standards to collaborate and share information with HUD, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
With PlanStreet, you can share critical client data confidentially across agencies to assess needs and secure funding. Our software can be used with a plethora of programs that address homelessness, including but not limited to
If you want more time to focus on caring for your clients, schedule an introductory call to see how PlanStreet can streamline strategies for tackling the solution for homelessness today.