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Community Development , Homelessness , Supportive Housing

Keeping Families Out Of Shelters Isn’t The Only Goal

30 July 2013

HUD’s focus on Rapid Re-housing is a positive step—a way to shorten shelter stays and reduce recidivism that needs to be implemented in every community.  But diversion from shelter should not be our only goal. Should a family have to lose everything and wind up at the shelter door before we offer help? 

In Middlesex County, we have a modest Homelessness Prevention Fund that raises private money to provide one-time assistance to households who face a short-term crisis in their lives that could lead to eviction.

Would these families wind up at the shelter door without our assistance? Maybe, but maybe not.  Maybe they would move in with family or friends. Maybe they would go to a motel. Maybe they would have to take their kids out of their current school. Maybe the stress of losing their housing would lead to health issues.  Without this assistance, they might not have stable housing—but their situation might not meet a strict definition of homelessness either.

Since the inception of the Middlesex County Homelessness Prevention Fund in 2008, we have provided assistance to over 270 households, including 260 children, with the average amount of assistance being $800.  In follow-up interviews, many of the people we helped told us that these relatively small grants had a significant impact on their households.  As the pendulum of public policy swings toward shelter diversion, let’s not lose sight of the value of earlier interventions that can stabilize families before they lose their housing. We believe that a combined approach will produce the best results for all families dealing with these challenging circumstances.

Ann Faust is the Program Coordinator at Middlesex Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.

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