The state of homelessness around the world isn’t encouraging. Let alone the developing world, the US itself presents an uninspiring picture when it comes to the number of people who are in urgent need of decent and affordable housing options.
According to endhomelessness.org, there are an estimated 553,742 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on a given night. This means that out of every 10,000 people living in the US, 17 are experiencing homelessness.
The problem of homelessness in the US is tackled by communities across the country. They have a range of housing and services programs, emergency shelters, transitional and temporary housing, permanent supportive housing, and more importantly, Rapid Rehousing.
Over the last decade, homeless assistance has seen a major shift in the US where a greater emphasis has fallen on permanent housing solutions. Two major types of such programs include permanent supportive housing and Rapid Rehousing.
Rapid Rehousing is an intervention program designed to assist the homeless. The National Alliance to End Homelessness describes Rapid Rehousing as “a subset of the Housing First approach to end homelessness.”
Most of the Housing First programs focus on providing the homeless people financial assistance in the rental. Some other Housing First programs also help them access rent subsidies. But the Rapid Rehousing program provides rental assistance and services for a short term where services end when rental assistance terminates.
The key goals of the Rapid Rehousing programs include helping the homeless find the right housing options fast, help them move to the new home, and remain housed for a long term. A Rapid Rehousing program is typically made up of three major components, identification of housing, moving and rental assistance, and case management services.
Unlike the Housing First programs – which serve youth, families with children, and chronically homeless – Rapid Rehousing programs serve people with low to moderate housing services needs. In comparison to Housing First programs which have a broader approach, Rapid Rehousing programs are more targeted towards a certain segment of the population.
Although Rapid Rehousing programs share a lot of characteristics with Housing First programs, they’re intrinsically different in a number of ways. The goal, however, is the same: To end homelessness and form a stable permanent housing base for the homeless.
As opposed to the Housing First programs, Rapid Rehousing programs offer rent subsidy for a short term – typically for 3-6 months – with the services lasting only as long as the subsidy. Housing First programs, on the other hand, ten to last much longer based on the need of the people.
Another difference between Housing First and Rapid Rehousing programs is the intensity of the housing need that the target segment has. For example, the prior targets people from low- to high-intensity services needs (chronically homeless), while the latter serves only the people with mid-range acuity.
Another thing that sets Rapid Rehousing apart from Housing First is that it’s delivered through scattered site apartments. Whereas in the case of Housing First programs, housing is delivered via congregate living as well as scattered-site apartments.
The levels of case management required for Rapid Rehousing and Housing First Programs also vary greatly. While the latter requires Intensive Case Management, the prior required a wholly different case management approach to yield promising and lasting results.
In Rapid Rehousing programs, the rent subsidy is provided for a limited time, but both types of programs utilize case management to help families find, move in, and stabilize by connecting to community-based resources in the shortest possible amount of time.
The three key components of Rapid Rehousing, as mentioned above, include:
Case management is a vital component of a Rapid Rehousing program. Rapid Rehousing case managers help their clients, both individuals and families, find the right accommodation options that suit their household needs and fit their budget for long-term accommodation stability.
They’re also responsible for addressing issues that may hinder access of the homeless to livable housing options. These hindrances may include credit history, arrears, or any other legal issues. Case managers are also the people who negotiate lease agreements that tilt in favor of the homeless with the landlords.
The Rapid Rehousing case manager’s work doesn’t stop even after the client has moved into the new house. They are also responsible for monitoring the client’s housing stability after securing the housing. This may be achieved through regular communication with the landlord and/or random home visits.
Case managers are also responsible for connecting the participants to helpful community resources to ensure their wellbeing and accomplish lasting success. These resources may include income and healthcare benefits, community services, employment opportunities, etc.
Rapid Rehousing intervention programs typically have these five levels of support:
Broadly speaking, there are four core types of Rapid Rehousing case management, namely:
There are some proven strategies that should be used by all Rapid Rehousing case management providers. These case management standards turn Rapid Rehousing into highly effective programs.
The goals of Rapid Rehousing case management are to help participants obtain and move into permanent housing, to support participants to stabilize in that housing, and to connect them to community and mainstream services and support system if needed.
So, Rapid Rehousing is essentially a short-term crisis intervention and the goal of Rapid Rehousing case management, therefore, is to help a household access a new housing unit and stabilize in it, rather than building a long-term service relationship.
That’s the reason why case management focuses on removing hurdles to suitable housing options and enabling clients to establish a robust support system. Case management for Rapid Rehousing is much different from other interventions because it’s focused on one thing only: to end someone’s homelessness in the shortest possible time.
Since the engagement timeframe is much shorter for Rapid Rehousing case managers, they need to be highly focused on getting the client to access decent and affordable housing faster and for the longer run. Housing identification, moving, retention, and community connections –all tasks fall within the ambit of the Rapid Rehousing case manager’s scope.
Both participants (clients) and case managers can come across a number of hurdles in accessing the right housing options. These hurdles can be faced while obtaining housing, as well as maintaining it. Here are a few barriers that may screen people out of the housing.
Both clients and case managers face major hurdles when it comes to obtaining suitable and affordable housing. There are a lot of considerations for the landlord when deciding to rent their house to a tenant. Things like evictions, criminal history, rental history, lack of income or unsteady income, household size, documents, language barriers, and more will need to be cleared before an individual or family can have access to a good housing option.
Barriers to retaining housing, or stabilizing, are the things that interfere with a person’s ability to comply with the lease. Problems like inadequate access to facilities like education or healthcare, poor condition of the house, lack of finances to sustain the lease, or the size of the housing may be some hurdles to maintaining the housing in the longer run. So, case managers must secure housing that perfectly fits the client’s needs and budget.
For Rapid Rehousing case management to be successful, case managers must develop a smart and ‘human’ approach to it. No two cases of Rapid Rehousing are the same and every individual or family has their own unique needs and preferences that must be made the very basis of any case plan.
The most common cause of a Rapid Rehousing case’s failure is a lack of understanding of the client and their household needs. Problems can arise at an early stage of the process if the case manager’s approach is flawed. Here are a few things the case managers must take into account when dealing with Rapid Rehousing.
No case plan for Rapid Rehousing can be rigid or fixed in nature. Flexibility is key when it comes to making a plan that is promising for the long run. No plan that’s not built on the client’s strengths, support systems, and personal needs and preferences can ever succeed.
Seasoned case managers have some valuable advice for their younger counterparts: make no case plan unless you fully understand your client. Some of them might just need one sitting, while some others might require repeated one-on-one sessions to ascertain what’s best for them.
In Rapid Rehousing, you’re with your client for a short period of time. But to help them sustain their housing for a long period, case managers must work hard to support network linkages for the household to rely on once the short-term assistance ends. So, while you’re not spending much time with the client, you’re spending a lot of time building their support network.
Rapid Rehousing case managers have one job: to provide housing to the homeless fast and for a good length of time. So, their job descriptions must also say it explicitly and unequivocally. If your JD is about general case management, you may want to rewrite it to focus on these particular Rapid Rehousing focused activities.