Experts Share Successes on Using Mainstream Resources for Families Experiencing Homelessness
The September 2012 USICH Council meeting on family homelessness featured two experts from the field: Associate Executive Director of Programs at The Road Home, Michelle Flynn, and Executive Director of the Tacoma Housing Authority, Michael Mirra. USICH invited these two leaders because they demonstrate how organizations can leverage mainstream resources and collaborations to address family homelessness. Each organization submitted a brief describing their respective work in detail.
Michelle Flynn outlines how The Road Home serves as a rapid re-housing agency using the flexibility of TANF to invest in housing stability for families experiencing homelessness. She explains further that The Road Home assists families in shelter to move as quickly as possible into housing through a regular reassessment process, which determines the level of support needed. Families in emergency shelter are assessed for rapid re-housing assistance after seven days. The program has been financed with a combination of HUD’s one-time Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) funds and state TANF funds. And, through partnerships with the State Department of Workforce Services (DWS) and TANF, there is a strong program emphasis on getting families into gainful employment. Flynn emphasizes that all services are focused on removing housing barriers and increasing income, and that 87 percent of the 1,044 families have remained housed since the beginning of the program in October 2009.
Michael Mirra describes how the Tacoma Housing Authority in Washington State is using flexibility provided under HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration to support rapid re-housing, as well as partnering with schools and the child welfare system to improve outcomes for families and children experiencing or at risk of homelessness. He asserts that tailoring the availability, type, amount, and duration of assistance to the need for family housing is essential, in addition to linking housing dollars with services. Mirra emphasizes the importance of helping people residing in Tacoma Housing Authority units to succeed not just as tenants, but also as parents, students, wage earners, and builders of assets. He adds that housing programs can be effective staging grounds for these efforts and good launching pads for family success. Lastly, Mirra elaborates on the Tacoma Housing Authority’s three specific initiatives on homelessness: 1) Rapid Re-housing Project; 2) McCarver Elementary School Initiative; and 3) Collaboration Among Washington State’s Child Welfare Agency and Housers.