Evaluation of the Sound Families Initiative, Early Exits: Lessons Learned from Families Asked to Leave Transitional Housing Programs

Jami Bodonyi, Laura Orlando, Briana Yancey, and Renee Lamberjack

April 2006

In 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a $40 million, eight-year commitment to address family homelessness in the Puget Sound area in Washington State with the goal of creating 1,500 new housing units, provided with services that increase family stability. The Sounds Family Initiative was launched as a public-private partnership, with involvement from different levels of government, nonprofit groups, and regional housing authorities.  Programs funded by Sound Families vary tremendously in location, service population, physical program structure, and services provided, but all provide housing with transitional support services to homeless families. Some programs allow residents to transition to permanent housing at the same site (“transition in place”) if they successfully complete the service component. Other programs have established partnerships with the local public housing authorities, which has enabled them to access Section 8 vouchers or public housing units at exit.  While the majority of families (75%) successfully complete Sound Families transitional housing programs, one-fourth do not. The focus of this report is on families who were asked to leave or evicted from transitional housing between August 2003 and June 2005. It is anticipated that by trying to identify which sub-groups of families are most at risk of being asked to leave transitional housing, we will develop a better understanding of these families and how they may be more effectively engaged in services. In addition, system, organizational, and client level barriers will be discussed as well as potential ways to address these barriers. When possible, insights from interviews with the families who were asked to leave are incorporated.

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