Strategies For Preventing Homelessness

Martha R. Burt and Carol L. Pearson

May 2005

Homelessness prevention is an essential element of any effort to end homelessness either locally or nationwide. To close the front door of entry into homelessness, the central challenge of prevention is targeting our efforts toward those people that will become homeless without the intervention. Providing prevention assistance to people who would not otherwise become homeless is an inefficient use of limited homelessness dollars. This study suggests that a number of elements contribute to homelessness prevention and a number of promising prevention activities exist. The study identifies elements of community homelessness prevention strategies that seem to lead to reductions in the number of people who otherwise would become homeless. The contributing elements include targeting through control of the eligibility screening process; developing community motivation; maximizing mainstream and private resources; fostering leadership; and ensuring the availability and structure of data and information used to track progress, improve on prevention efforts, and facilitate outcome based contracting. Evidence from the six communities studied indicates that those employing the most elements seem to be more successful at prevention and better able to document their achievements.

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