100K Homes Housing Placement Boot Camp: a New Efficient Way to Decrease Time to Housing

100K Homes Housing Placement Boot Camp: a New Efficient Way to Decrease Time to Housing

In many cities, the time it takes for an eligible Veteran who requests housing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program to actually get the keys to an apartment can be four months or more.  100K Homes set out to develop a new way to look at this problem with the hope of decreasing time to housing.  They saw the success that Washington, DC had with dramatically reducing the average time to house a Veteran and wanted to find a way for other cities to accomplish the same thing. They partnered with the Home for Good LA, GOOD Magazine, and Aguiniga Design to develop a housing placement boot camp that would be effective for shortening the time to housing in other communities. 

When a city participates in a housing placement boot camp, representatives from the agencies involved in the housing placement process in that city come together. No single agency owns the process of housing the homeless entirely. Since many different agencies have specific responsibilities and requirements, it is essential to have someone from all the key agencies involved.  At a minimum that includes the Public Housing Agency, VA, the Continuum of Care, and the city office most responsible for homelessness services whether that is a special office of its own, health services, human services, public health or all of the above.  It is best to include some voices from the people who actually do the most navigation of this system as well: Veterans who have experienced homelessness, others who have experienced homelessness, landlords, outreach workers, etc. The meeting is hosted by an entity that has the appropriate reach and drive to push the policy recommendations forward in the months following the boot camp. 

The boot camp is a full day event.  When everyone has gathered together they are presented with a magnetic game board which represents the housing placement process from start to finish. They are also given magnets that contain all of the possible basic steps in the housing placement process as well as blank magnets so that they can fill in their own unique steps if they need to. Teams made up of representatives from the agencies present build the game board so that it accurately reflects every step of the process from first contact with a person experiencing homelessness to the moment they are handed the keys to their apartment. 

The Associate Director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s New York Program, Erin Healy, participated as a faculty member in the New York City housing placement boot camp a few months ago and said,

“The act of building the board together was revelatory.  As you stand over the completed board, which shows this complex, onerous process, there is a clear understanding throughout the room.  Common sense dictates that we have to do this differently, we have to simplify and speed up the process. Homeless Veterans –and anyone who’s homeless or in need--deserve better. The boot camp brings all the key agencies together and they learn more about the rationale behind each other’s processes. It’s demystifying—and this alone can help save time in the process because sometimes a misunderstanding of why something is asked for can impact the time it takes to provide it. Many participants, myself included, felt that the 100K Homes Boot Camp was one of the best and most productive events we’d been to.”

During the second phase of the boot camp, attendees build a board that reflects what they see as the ideal process.  Finally, they build a third board that is meant to be a realistic improvement on the first, one where more processes are moving in parallel instead of sequentially and where unneeded steps are eliminated.  After this third board is built, participants work together with the host to identify the easiest and the biggest impact changes that need to be made and the next steps for follow up.

Although it is too soon to see time to housing reductions in New York, Erin Healy stressed the importance of “tracking measurable targets because this is critical to understanding the effects of the suggested policy changes on the system.”  She also indicated that several policy changes are in the works and that they expect to have measurable results soon. 

In Los Angeles, more time has passed since the boot camp and they are starting to see results. Christine Marge, the Director for Housing and Health for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and one of the hosts of the Los Angeles boot camp said,

“Partnering with 100K Homes on the housing placement boot camp was instrumental in streamlining our HUD-VASH process here in Los Angeles, and moving us closer to the goal we’ve set through Home for Good, the local plan to end chronic and Veteran homelessness by 2016.  It was so powerful to have cross-sector leaders – VA, our Housing Authorities, outreach workers, housing providers, and Veterans – around the table together looking at how we could simplify the process. At the boot camp, we learned that it took 168 days and 47 steps to move a Veteran from the streets into a HUD-VASH apartment in LA. Just three months later, it now takes 100 days and 18 steps, thanks to the process improvements each of our partners made coming out of the boot camp.”

Some of the key policy changes that are moving forward in both cities can be found in the Top Nine Things You Can Do Right Now to Move Homeless Veterans into Housing More Quickly.

100K Homes is planning 10 regional boot camps in the coming months. Stay tuned to find out when one will be hosted in your area. 

100K Homes also recently released “Mythbusters: Using HUD-VASH to House Homeless Veterans” that debunks some of the common misperceptions about the HUD-VASH process.