05/23/2014 - Your Questions Answered - Webinar on Ending Family Homelessness - Part One

Yesterday, more than 600 providers and stakeholders from across the country joined us for a great discussion about what ending homelessness among families means and what achieving it will require.

Debra Rog, Associate Director at Westat, provided a view from research of the state of homelessness among families, including their demographics, length of stay in shelters, risk factors, and the impact of homelessness on children.

Laura Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director, defined what an end to family homelessness means, discussed what an effective crisis response system should look like at the local level, and reviewed Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness and its key strategy areas.

Ann Oliva, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs and Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD CPD/SNAPS), outlined HUD’s Continuum of Care policy priorities focused on ending family homelessness and provided an overview of coordinated assessment and tailored assistance like rapid re-housing.

Ali Sutton, Policy Advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (HHS ACF), discussed ACF’s commitment to this work and the importance of connecting families experiencing homelessness to mainstream resources like TANF and HeadStart and enhancing services through the implementation of evidence-based practices.

Finally, Lindsay Knotts, Analyst at USICH, shared helpful resources for improving local crisis response systems and invited participants to share examples of the work that they’re doing at the local level to end family homelessness.

At the end of our discussion, we received a lot of really great questions, many of which we didn’t have time to answer.  We provide responses to two of these questions below, and will be responding to more of these questions over the next few weeks.

Question: “What can the Federal government do to help folks get on disability?”

Answer: For families with disabilities, SSI/SSDI can be used to pay for housing as well as essential household needs and can also help reconnect adults in the family to a number of work incentives and services. This is a great example of one of the many resources to which families can be connected within a local system. 

The Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funds the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery Technical Assistance (SOAR TA) Center. This project is designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have a qualifying disability. There is a SOAR program in each of the 50 states. Additionally, SSA, SAMHSA, VA and USICH will be issuing joint guidance in the coming months on the key strategies and partnerships that are effective in helping people experiencing homelessness enroll in SSI/SSDI.  

Question: “Are there any communities trying a Housing First model of PSH with families?”

Answer: Housing First is a proven method of ending all types of homelessness, connecting families and individuals to permanent housing directly from homelessness and providing the level of assistance and supports to help households achieve housing stability. Many communities are using the Housing First approach in permanent supportive housing for families experiencing homelessness, particularly families with high service needs.  

In New York City, the program Keeping Families Together pairs permanent supportive housing with child welfare services in order to stabilize families in crisis and improve family functioning. Keeping Families Together is an approach to family preservation developed specifically to meet the challenges of the most vulnerable families, including families headed by parents with disabling conditions. Through permanent supportive housing, it provides both the stability of a home and the missing link between the family and the service system. To learn more about this program and other innovative programs like it, visit our Solutions Database, a live resource hub on USICH’s website.

A similar model is being replicated through Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System grants from HHS’ Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). This demonstration provides child welfare involved families who have severe housing and service needs with supportive housing that integrates the social and health services needed to stay together. Placing children in foster care is often detrimental to their health and well-being. Supportive housing for families involved in child welfare provides a safe platform for the services needed to help these families stay together.

Thank you to all who participated in the webinar Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness and stay tuned for more webinars in this series!

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