The most reliable method in the fight to end homelessness is housing vouchers, a recent Department of Housing and Urban Development report found. It also found that families with vouchers experience less distress and less domestic violence. The study examined 2,200 homeless families in emergency shelters in 12 U.S. cities to find out how they responded to different forms of help designed to help them exit homelessness. After 18 months, the families offered a housing choice voucher were less likely to re-enter homelessness or experience housing instability, the report said.
Jennifer Ho, a HUD senior adviser on housing and services, said the vouchers help reduce overall homelessness:
Sometimes we’ve thought of homeless families as needing a bunch of services to do better, but what we’ve found is that they need housing.
The study gave families four options: housing vouchers (known as Section 8 vouchers) to help pay for housing that they find in the private market; rapid re-housing, which helps families pay their rent in the short-term; transitional housing, which combines up to two years of housing with services to assist families; and usual care, which provides temporary shelter housing without many of the aforementioned services.
According to the report, families with vouchers stayed together in greater numbers and experienced reduced psychological distress, domestic violence and food insecurity. The children in families with vouchers were also less likely to be separated from their parents and experienced reduced school mobility.
Additionally, the HUD study reported that vouchers cost the same or even less than other forms of assistance. Ho said the voucher program costs more than rapid re-housing, but that comparatively, the long-term efficacy of the voucher program is what’s important.
Funding cuts have reduced the number of families receiving housing vouchers, with agencies assisting 100,000 fewer families by June 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
If we want to make an impact on this problem we need Congress to invest in a way that can address homelessness.
According to HUD, the number of families with children experiencing homelessness has declined 15% since 2010, and the number of unsheltered families fell 53% during the same period.
HUD plans to continue to follow the families for at least three years and will report on 36-month outcomes in 2017.
The findings, Minneapolis-St. Paul advocates say, mirror the results they’ve seen in the Twin cities and the surrounding area—though they caution that vouchers remain in short supply and recipients face a tight rental market.
If we had an abundance of federal housing subsidies, we would have a lot fewer homeless people in our community locally.
Across the country, demand for federal housing vouchers far outpaces the supply. The “Housing Choice” vouchers are available to qualifying low-income individuals and families, who put 30% of their income toward housing. There’s no end date on a voucher; the program keeps running unless program participants move out of the required income restrictions.
I truly believe if you can find a way to assimilate low-income families into communities without the stigma of identifiable low-income housing; that’s a perk for both the family and the program.
Although demand on local shelters and assistance programs remains high, there are some signs of improvement. In June, Hennepin County recorded 273 families in public and private shelters–down from 336 families last year over the same period.