What Lessons Were Learned from HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program?
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) was launched in 2009 to provide financial assistance and supportive services for Americans who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The three-year program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, distributed $1.5 billion in grants to support a range of homelessness prevention programs.
HPRP was the first-ever large-scale implementation of a homelessness prevention initiative. HPRP distributed funding to 535 states, counties, cities, and U.S. territories, who in turn hired 2,500 other entities – mostly local nonprofits – as direct service providers.
The Homelessness Prevention Study, directed by the Urban Institute with assistance from Abt Associates, examined the implementation and early results of homelessness prevention activities funded in the first two years of HPRP.
What Lessons Were Learned from the Homelessness Prevention Efforts?
The study examined homelessness prevention activities funded under HPRP overall and 17 local prevention programs in detail, finding mixed results.
Overall, 70 percent of HPRP funds were spent on prevention, including on households who were in imminent danger of becoming homeless. Most clients received both financial assistance and case management, and most clients received prevention services for less than six months.
However, the research was limited by the available data. Researchers did not have control groups to precisely gauge the impact of the homelessness prevention services provided through the program. And the few grantees who followed up with clients three to six months after homelessness prevention assistance ended could not find a significant number of them. The study therefore recommended how future evaluation efforts could better track and assess the outcomes of prevention efforts.
Still, researchers concluded that grantees struggled to identify and serve the intended target population – people who needed assistance avoiding or ending homelessness but who could remain housed with minimal financial assistance and “light-touch” case management. The decision to target this group may have denied assistance to lower-income households who needed help most, according to the study.
However, HPRP had the effect of improving coordination of services among local homelessness service and prevention organizations. For example, 62 percent of grantees reported more collaboration between homeless service providers and mainstream agencies. Also, most grantees expected this collaboration to continue after HPRP.
Also, some grantees worked with local nonprofits who offered services that deserve further examination, according to the study. Staff of the homelessness prevention program in Arlington, Va., for example, worked with a local housing locator who developed relationships with landlords, recruiting them to assist HPRP clients, mediating between landlords and tenants, and staying up to date on local housing markets. Program staff reported this helped clients retain housing they already had, or accelerated the process of finding housing for those who needed it.
Read the full Homelessness Prevention Study.