May 27, 2010; Source: Washington Post | With increased interest in Washington, D.C. for social service programs that appear to be living up to their promises, government officials don’t have to look far for one that seems to be working. More so, most of its success seems to be due to the fact that its already receiving sufficient federal dollars so it can do its job.

The Washington Post reports that efforts to prevent and end homelessness in Fairfax (Virginia) County have resulted in an 11 percent drop in the numbers of people without homes this year compared to 2009. Among the approaches credited with helping reduce homelessness is one known as Housing Opportunities Support Teams (HOST). Operated with the help of a local nonprofit, New Hope Housing, HOST prevents hundreds of families from entering the shelter system and also works to help people return to stable housing sooner.

Through the HOST program, the county funds its nonprofit partners to help clients facing eviction pay back rent as well as to subsidize those who are already homeless. Although the program was conceived as a 10-year effort in 2007, it only was able to start operating in late 2009 after receiving $2.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Pamela Michell, executive director of New Hope, credits access to the federal funding for its successes. As she notes, “If we don’t have the money to provide the rent subsidy, then our hands are tied.” Another benefit of having ready cash to pay back rent is that it has enabled county and nonprofit officials to show how to prevent homelessness, giving the program hope that it will continue to receive backing even after stimulus money ends.—Bruce Trachtenberg