Community Development, Homelessness, Reports and Publications, Supportive Housing

Changing Trends in How America is Helping Homeless Families


The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) collaborated on Ending Family Homeless: National Trends and Local Systems Responses, which finds that rapid re-housing is a more effective and cost efficient way of assisting families who are homeless.  This paper was written for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to document how the nation is changing its approach to ending homelessness and to assist Western Washington communities with adjusting to these changes. 

The report found a few major national trends:

  • Families usually only have one brief episode of homelessness (3-6 months).
  • 1 in 5 families have a long stay in transitional housing and typically receive a wide variety of services and housing subsidies for up to 2 years.
  • Families experiencing both short and long term homelessness face challenges similar to other low income families who never become homeless.
  • A small subset of homeless families experience multiple episodes of homelessness and require intensive services and housing assistance.

These findings on homeless families indicates that there is a disconnect between their needs and the way homeless service resources are used.  A majority of the services are used for a small subset of families that stay in transitional housing while the majority of homeless families receive a minority of services, including the subset with the greatest needs.

The report indicates that rapid re-housing programs are a cost efficient way of effectively helping homelessness families transition out of homelessness with 85% of the participants of the programs avoiding homelessness in the future. By investing more in rapid re-housing programs, towns can generate savings while assisting more families in need.

Currently in Washington’s Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties, transitional housing is used as the primary intervention method to address family homelessness. These counties have put substantial investment into transitional housing and a switch to rapid-re housing programs would create considerable hardship for them. This report examines how these counties could tailor their existing systems to incorporate rapid-re housing and the steps that would be necessary to achieve a new system.

While this report is meant as guidance for Western Washington communities, the information in the report is useful for other communities that may be facing the same issues.

Click here for the full report.


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