Families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population for a variety of reasons. To begin with, the local cost of living is such that even those making twice the minimum wage have great difficulty making ends meet when all essential family expenses are considered. In recent years, our own client data indicated that many families left our system for public housing and benefits because accepting a job could result in losing eligibility for public support long before they could afford to live without assistance. Faced with the real threat of losing funds to support their children, this was a rational decision, even though most had worked in the past and wanted to work again. In addition, almost all of the parents we served shared a low level of educational attainment: approximately half had completed high school or obtained a GED and the other half had not completed high school.
While many organizations have embraced the data-supported findings that a homeless person’s primary need is to obtain stable housing, housing alone cannot solve the complex issue of family homelessness. In 2009, after years of thoughtful research and partner-building, we launched the Heading Home Partnership to End Family Homelessness (HHP) to address the obstacles that keep homeless families from getting ahead: lack of housing, education, job and life skills, assets and the ability to manage them. Doing so in the short-term ensures that all family members are better equipped to thrive in the long-term. Rather than losing resources as they progress towards goals, as often occurs in the existing system, HHP families are able to maintain/increase their income as they meet life-altering milestones. For example, when parents have been employed for six months, have met their asset goals to date and have participated in financial literacy education, they will be awarded a full rental subsidy. Families may invest $20-$50/per month in an interest-earning account that will be matched 3:1 by the Program. Additional deposits are made as participants reach other important milestones.
This innovative, near unprecedented program leverages significant public resources and partners with the area’s most effective community service providers to deliver a proven formula of simultaneous services. Now in its third year, the HHP has yielded promising outcomes in all programmatic areas. While approximately 100 family heads are currently immersed in different stages of the program, each has children and other family members who are also directly served – totaling more than 300 persons – for example, through child care services, life-skills education, and asset development funds for children’s own college educations. To learn more about the Heading Home Partnership, please contact Emily Smaldon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.864.8140, ext. 107.