Henrico County VA

Villa implements rapid re-housing

Method proving more helpful to homeless
There is really no way to make homelessness any less scary, especially for children, but St. Joseph’s Villa is working to make getting out of it less jarring for families.

The Richmond nonprofit’s Flagler Housing and Homeless Services system will complete its change July 1 to a system of rapid re-housing of homeless families in their own apartments or houses, as opposed to housing them at St. Joseph’s Villa.

“We saw that the Flagler Home’s transitional housing was becoming less and less effective,” said Kimberly Tucker, director of housing and homeless services. She attributed this change to generational differences between the people served when the Flagler program was founded in 1989 and its participants today.

This program places families of any composition in houses or apartments and provides services to keep them there. These include short-term rent assistance funding, employment coaching and help from a housing stabilization case manager.

This manager serves as an advocate and adviser for the families, Tucker said, who might otherwise be rejected by landlords because of past debts and evictions. Typically, a family stays in the program for only three to six months, she said, but the goal is keep them housed permanently.

The main benefit of rapid re-housing is that it immediately gets a family into where it’ll be living, Tucker said, as opposed to having members move into various temporary shelters. This not only provides a permanent address to list on job applications, she said, but also is much less stressful on children, who don’t have to change schools and lose friends.

“It’s a model that respects people’s dignity and helps them to get back into the community,” Tucker said.

Families must be classified as homeless to qualify for rapid re-housing, meaning they have nowhere else to go for lodging. Participants are referred from Homeless Point of Entry, a Commonwealth Catholic Charities program that serves as a centralized intake for homeless people seeking assistance.

The rapid re-housing model has been growing in popularity nationwide recently, and was first implemented by St. Joseph’s Villa in 2010 as a pilot program. Since then, 97 percent of the families it has served in the Richmond area have not returned to homelessness, Tucker said, versus an average success rate of about 60 percent with the old transitional housing model.

Residents currently living in the Flagler Home at St. Joseph’s Villa will be rapidly re-housed or transferred to other area shelters.

St. Joseph’s Villa mainly uses funding from the Virginia state government to run its programs, Tucker said. Rapid re-housing has turned out be much cheaper than transitional housing, Tucker said, because of the much shorter duration of the program and because St. Joseph’s Villa no longer has to maintain a residential facility. While transitional housing cost the nonprofit about $27,000 per family in the past year, rapid re-housing averages about $4,000 per family per year.

“We can serve three times as many people with the same amount of money,” Tucker said. St. Joseph’s Villa expects to help 300 families in 2013.
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