Homeless prevention:
The Primary Solution
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Part I: Intervention Programs

 

A. ONE-TIME RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

Currently, there are a number of small programs that administer one-time rental assistance programs. However, they are mostly focused at getting families and individuals back into housing as opposed to preventing them from becoming homeless. With the exception of the state funded Aid to Families With Dependent Children Homeless Assistance Program, all "rental assistance" programs in the county require that consumers demonstrate ability to stabilize. Those who do not have adequate income in comparison to their expenses, and/or would need on-going assistance would not be eligible, but should be referred to on-going rental assistance. The recommendations here attempt to change guidelines so that programs are "prevention" focused.

 

Community Based Organization Rental Assistance Programs These include Northern California Grantmakers Rental Guarantee Program (RGP), Discretionary Housing Assistance Programs administered by Community Action Life Line (CALL) Primrose, Peninsula Family Resource Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Samaritan House, and Community Action Agency, Season of Sharing funds and Apartment Industry Foundation funds. (Please see Program Inventory).

 

Recommendations for Community Based organization Rental Assistance programs

 

Recommendation IA- 1 All rental assistance funds should be allowed to be used to pay one time rental assistance or back rent, instead of just move-in costs. This also includes increasing the allowed amount for back rent for Season of Sharing funds. The eligibility for these funds should be changed and outreach conducted to ensure one-time rental assistance that prevents homelessness. This program could include case management. Since some of the programs are discretionary, case workers must be well trained to use good judgement in administering these funds.

Recommendation IA-2 All rental assistance programs should be open to all those at-risk of homelessness. This includes single people as well as families with children.

Recommendation IA-3 Program regulations should be changed so that in necessary instances the uncovered portion of the back rent or rental assistance (1/2 the total) could be covered by another grant. This particularly relates to the Season of Sharing Funds. This would result in more cases of prevented homelessness, because more at risk families and individuals could utilize the program. All efforts should be made to get assistance to families and individuals before they become homeless.

Recommendation IA-4 Current programs that pay back rent and move-in costs should be expanded. There is an extreme shortfall in rental assistance funds.

Recommendation IA-5 A convening of funders should take place to see if there is a possibility of combining programs, in order to ease administrative burden, as well as confusion. This includes having single intake forms, instead of separate forms.

Recommendation IA-6 All of these services should have voluntary case management and follow-up attached.

Recommendation IA-7 Program guidelines should remain flexible for special needs populations. Guidelines on actual amounts of rent, and the possibility to use funds for multiple months until individual or family maintains stability should remain flexible, as should optional community service requirements. Special needs populations include people leaving institutions such as Jails (CASE program), Hospitals, Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs, Mental Health, Developmentally Disabled and Physically III facilities, who have successfully completed programs and can demonstrate the ability to stabilize after a short period of time.

There are no grants of this kind available for these populations, with the exception of special circumstances grants that are available for those persons receiving Supplemental Security Income and rental assistance available through Housing Opportunities for People with Aids (HOPWA) grants administered by the Mental Health Association.

Recommendation IA-8 Grants for unaccompanied Youth should be tied to transitional housing, or if unavailable, shared housing services, independent living skills and employment development. Currently, there are no emergency grants available to homeless unaccompanied youth. Youth are facing barriers that prevent emergency grants from being administered in a traditional sense. It is very hard for them to get landlords to rent to them, and to find jobs that offer sustainable incomes.

Recommendation IA-9 Grants for teen parents should be tied to services, especially childcare and employment development. There are no emergency grants available to homeless unaccompanied youth, teen parents or pregnant teens for move-in costs or one-time rental assistance. A recent survey conducted by the Human Service Agency revealed that housing concerns ranked 4th on a list of 25 unmet needs of pregnant and parenting teens. Only child care, respite care and supplies for the baby were identified as more critical.

 

Who Is Responsible For Implementation? Non-profits including, but not limited to, Peninsula Family Resource Center, St. Vincent de Paul, CALL Primrose, Community Action Agency. Core Service Agencies in conjunction with Northern California Grantmakers. Agencies administering the grants in conjunction with Apartment Industry Foundation.

For special needs populations, all agencies serving these populations, including but not limited to Service League, California Veterans Services, Mental Health Association of San Mateo County, Golden Gate Regional Center.

For unaccompanied homeless youth and teen parents, Youth & Family Assistance, San Mateo County Youth and Family Services Division. (The organizational structure of Youth and Family Services Division is composed of 3 units: Prevention and Early Intervention, Alcohol and Drug, and Child Welfare Services.)

 

Where Will The Funding Come From? Northern California Grantmakers Rental Guarantee Program (RGP), Discretionary Housing Assistance Programs administered by Community Action Life Line (CALL) Primrose, Peninsula Family Resource Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Samaritan House, and Community Action Agency, Season of Sharing funds and Apartment Industry Foundation funds. (Please see Program Inventory)

Additional funding for rental assistance programs should come from a special licensing fee that would be required for all landlords, similar to a business license. Landlords would be notified as to the availability of funds for rental assistance if tenants fall behind on their rent. Administration of this program should occur through the current property tax system. This will require cooperation between the cities and the County and should be approached through ABAG.

Other sources of funding include Federal Health and Human Services, County Office of Education and the State Departments of Education and Economic Opportunity, along with foundations and private sector corporations. HUD Emergency Shelter Program Funds and Shelter Plus Care funding has been identified for special populations.

 

Aid to Families With Dependent Children Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) The HAP program is a special need allowance within the AFDC program. The purpose of this program is to assist eligible AFDC applicants and recipients who are homeless with the cost of temporary shelter as well as the reasonable costs of securing permanent housing.

 

Recommendation for AFDC Homeless Assistance Program (HAP)

 

Recommendation IA-10 The Task Force recommends that two waivers be sought from the state of California that would allow the use of HAP program funds for homeless prevention. Waiver One would give the client the ability to use the portion of the funding which is designed for 16 days in a motel for one-time rental assistance or back rent. (It should be noted that hotel rooms are not seen as appropriate living accommodations, as many are substandard and too small to accommodate families.) Waiver Two would give the client the ability to use the permanent housing funds for onetime rental assistance or back rent. Both of these recommendations must be client choice oriented, so that consumers may use the program in the traditional way if they needed to do so.

 

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