January 9, 2017; Honolulu Civil Beat
Hawaii, having the third-highest per capita homeless rate in the nation, is transitioning to a new “rapid rehousing” model. New homeless shelters in Hawaii will have the goal of moving homeless individuals and families out of shelters and into housing in 90 days or less.
The state’s newest homeless shelter opened its doors Sept. 28th with the intent to transition its clients into permanent housing within 90 days. Three months later, the Kakaako Family Assessment Center has made some headway in meeting that goal. The center has served 17 families and has placed six into new homes, said Program Director Adrian Contreras.
In addition, one family is scheduled to move into housing within the next week and two more families soon after that.
Community partnerships are very important to the success of these new programs. Connecting the homeless to the services they need is no easy feat—in this case, almost two dozen organizations are involved in the homelessness prevention service network in this community.
Program Director Adrian Contreras says, “The center relies on support from the community and has partnered with 23 programs and providers, including the state Department of Education, The Institute for Human Services, Helping Hands Hawaii and Next Step Shelter.” The Next Step Shelter has also adopted the rapid rehousing model; it has found some success, but has not reached the 90-day marker for all in need. They began their 90-day countdown on August 8, 2016.
The approach has modestly decreased the average shelter stay. Previously, clients were staying at the shelter for an average of 201 days before they moved into permanent housing. Since the model was put into place, clients’ stays have decreased to 190 days, [Jason] Espero, [Director of Homelessness Services] said. That still far exceeds the 90-day goal, and now the state wants shelters to transition clients into permanent housing even faster. Next Step is facing new state requirements that say half of its clients need to move into permanent housing within 60 days.
The state of Hawaii is moving toward performance-based contracts using the rapid rehousing approach, meaning that nonprofits will get paid by the state for homelessness services only when they meet the 60 or 90-day requirement.
Rapid rehousing fits under the category of the housing-first model, with the main difference between the two being the 90-day time-limiting qualifier. (See a full description on the rapid rehousing model here from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, along with an infographic that depicts the main elements of the program.) As our readers know, NPQ has commented on the pros and cons of the housing-first model in the past. Although a growing amount of research points to the success of the rapid rehousing approach, we must be sure enough time has been sunk into the process to ensure lasting outcomes and a sustainable system of funding not 100-percent-connected to performance-based outcomes.—Lauren Miltenberger