The journey back from detox and addiction recovery is one that, most of the time, can’t be done alone. It requires the support of family, friends, and the community. Access to resources and support systems are invaluable. One of the most important resources is safe, stable, and affordable housing.
What is a Transitional Housing Program?
Transitional housing programs are designed to provide a temporary, safe, and affordable living situation for individuals and families who are homeless and are seeking independence in their domestic situations. Most often, individuals who are seeking transitional housing have experienced some type of substance abuse disorder and have lost their economic self-sufficiency.
In years past, transitional housing typically conjured thoughts of those who were recently released from jail or prison time. A more modern interpretation of transitional housing is one that helps individuals in a variety of situations including those who are:
- Transitioning from jail or prison
- In a population group facing social acceptance challenges
- Out of an addiction treatment center
- Moving away from a mental health care facility
- Escaping from homelessness
- Struggling with a lack of secure shelter due to a recent crisis.
Transitional housing programs typically allow for up to 24 months of temporary residency with continuing services and programs to help individuals stay on the track they have worked so hard to get back to.
Types of Transitional Housing Programs
The individual situations that lead to the need for transitional housing are varied. As such, there is also a variety in the types of transnational housing with each focusing on the specific needs of the situation. The most common types of transitional housing include:
- Low-income families seeking assistance: It is far easier and more cost-effective to prevent a family’s emergency housing needs before they are actually homeless. Transitional housing can help families who do not have the resources to maintain their current housing situation and provide shelter. In addition to shelter, social workers can aid families in finding employment, health care, education, more permanent housing, and financial assistance.
- Domestic violence victims seeking independence: One of the most challenging and difficult aspects of domestic violence is the victim being able to escape the living situation they are in. Nearly a quarter of women in the United States will experience domestic violence at the hand of an intimate or romantic partner. Fortunately, there are transitional housing resources available for these victims to help remove them from their living situation and aid their journey toward independence.
- Recovering addicts in halfway homes: Those seeking to recover from serious addictions can find supportive temporary living situations by way of halfway houses. These group housing arrangements provide more freedom and independence than a full-fledged rehabilitation clinic while still providing the support and resources individuals need to conquer their addictions and get back on their feet.
- Homeless veterans seeking stability: The Department for Housing and Urban Development estimates that nearly 40,000 Americans who were formerly in the military are sleeping on the street each night. That is a staggering number and indicates just how serious the homeless problem is for American military veterans. Many of these individuals also suffer from substance abuse and mental illness further complicating their situations. Transitional housing can help homeless veterans get back their independence and freedom from addictions.
What are the Benefits of Transitional Housing
The primary benefit of transitional housing is that families and individuals who are in a housing emergency have a safe and stable shelter while they are sorting out the issues that are at the root of their homelessness.
Beyond safety and stability, other benefits that transitional housing provides include:
- Reduction in crime: Ex-convicts have access to safe and secure housing with the additional benefit of a wealth of social work help that can aid in mental health and employment assistance. This in turn leads to reduced recidivism rates. Also, many people who are in transitional housing are women escaping domestic violence situations. Removing these victims from their situation reduces incidents of violent criminal activity.
- Disease prevention: Keeping families and individuals off the street and in transitional housing provides them with access to sanitary living conditions and reduces the likelihood of disease and illness. Access to basic resources like sanitary, clean water for hydration and bathing goes a long way.
- Substance abuse recovery: Many individuals who are in need of transitional housing assistance are in recovery from substance abuse. Many of these programs provide professional social workers who are able to speak specifically to these needs and provide support for these individuals in a place where they have stability and security. In some instances, follow-up services are available once individual transitions into a permanent living situation.
- Employment assistance: Ultimately, the goal of transitional housing is for individuals to obtain permanent housing solutions. A key factor in achieving this is steady employment. Many traditional housing programs offer assistance in job searches, resume preparation, and interviewing techniques.
- Growth toward independence: Believing that you can change your own circumstances is a huge part of being successful. Transitional housing can help build this confidence in vulnerable populations and show these individuals that gaining independence from their current situation is possible.
How Does Transitional Housing Differ from Shelter Programs?
While often used interchangeably, there are differences between transitional housing programs and shelter programs. Most notably, shelter programs are designed to be very temporary and used in emergency situations. Shelters are designed to keep individuals and families off the street and are typically the first stop on the journey to stable housing.
Transitional housing, while not intended to be permanent, is a step toward finding a more permanent housing solution.
State of Homelessness in 2021
Overall, the number of individuals who were staying in sheltered locations fell by 8% in 2020. While this is great news, there is still a considerable concern for those who continue to experience homelessness. There is much work to be done. According to HUD’s report on homelessness:
- In 2021, 326,00 people experienced sheltered homelessness each night.
- 60% of these people were individuals who were not accompanied by family
- The remaining 40% were families with children.
- 41,000 family households experienced sheltered homelessness.
- Families in shelters saw the biggest drop in numbers with individuals remaining flat.
- The number of individuals displaying chronic homelessness increased by 20%.
- Over the course of 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness actually decreased by 20%.
- The average size of a homeless family is 3.2.
- The number of transgender homeless increased by 29% over the previous year.
- Over 40% of those experiencing sheltered homelessness were Black Americans.
While the overall number of sheltered homeless cases declined, one, particularly concerning statistic, relates to the increase in individuals who are chronically homeless. This alone shows how much work there is yet to be done as it relates to helping the homeless and home insecure population get on solid footing through transitional housing programs.
Role of Transitional Housing Programs in Ending Homelessness
In the simplest terms, translational housing programs provide temporary relief for individuals and families so that they can address the root cause of their homelessness. Without stable and secure housing, obtaining gainful employment, seeking treatment, or continuing education is simply not possible.
Many of the situations that thrust families and individuals into homeless are addressed in the transitional housing process. For instance, social workers in the transitional housing program can help families obtain affordable health care that would have otherwise created an unsustainable financial crisis. Or, those same social workers can help those with a mental illness obtain the help and resources to pay rent on time, understand leasing responsibilities, and prepare them for a more independent life.
Transitional housing programs are one essential component in a system of resources that helps the most vulnerable populations get back on their feet. With the aid of these programs, many families across the United States are in safe and stable housing situations that will ultimately change the course of their lives going forward.