Family shelter network
The family service network is a working group of Heading Home Hennepin. Its purpose is to discuss issues and trends affecting families who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, in Hennepin County. The group develops annual action items focused on improving the homeless service system for families and recommendations for the Office to End Homelessness on issues related to family homelessness. The group meets the second Friday of each month at 11:30 a.m. The location varies among partner agencies.
For more information, please contact Kristen Brown at 612-543-1640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stable families initiative
Over about 18 months, the Stable Families Initiative has helped to reduce family shelter use overall by more than 18 percent, and set a course to reduce the number of families returning to shelter once they are established in housing.
Launched in Hennepin County in 2014, the initiative is a collaborative pilot program, designed to reduce repeat emergency shelter use by families with children. It is funded by a blend of federal, state, and county dollars, seven local foundations and an award from Ideas for Action.
The issue: Families returning to emergency shelter
In 2013, Hennepin County observed that 25 percent of families in emergency shelter had been there before, twice the number five years before. These families that returned to shelter were younger, with less education and work experience. They were disproportionately African American or Native American. Preventing these families’ return to shelter could have saved the community $1.5 million in shelter costs per year, in addition to the trauma that homelessness causes.
Our solution: Holistic support for families
The Stable Families Initiative focuses on an intentional and targeted response to repeat shelter users. These families have higher barriers to stability, and their children have lived in unstable situations for several years. The model focuses on supporting families beyond traditional Rapid Rehousing Services, acknowledging that standard services had been insufficient to stabilize their housing before.
The Stable Families Initiative has three main components, and holds promising lessons for both prevention and intervention approaches.
Prevention: Office to End Homelessness staff focused outreach efforts on 80 of the families that had used emergency shelter during the past two years. Staff sent letters twice during the first half of 2014, offering services to help prevent shelter re-entry. More than half of the families responded; most were on the verge of losing their housing again. The prevention program kept most of the families out of shelter, and created a lower return-to-shelter rate, compared to the 80 families in a control group.
Coordinated Services: Families that are at risk for return to emergency shelter are offered parent supports and enhanced employment services to assist them in gaining
independence. They are directed to a dedicated team that helps them to navigate county and community resources.
Young Parent Pilot: A subset of young parents were offered intensive case management, early childhood services and a two-year rent subsidy, in addition to the enhanced
employment and parent support services. The purpose of the pilot is to test whether this intervention reduces return-to-shelter rates. The intervention can be replicated at a systemwide level. Hennepin County is examining ways to make this model “business as usual” for a targeted group of families who face high barriers to stable housing.
The outcomes: Reducing shelter use
The overarching outcomes of the Stable Families Initiative are reductions in repeat shelter entry and in overall shelter demand.
Number of families in county-contracted family shelter
2013-2015 by month
Numbers refer to shelter occupancy on a single night each month.
24 percent of the families enrolled in the prevention program returned to shelter, compared to 34 percent in the control group.
Two percent of the families in the young parent pilot returned to shelter, compared to 13 percent in the control group For families with income, average monthly income rose from $593 in 2014 to $912 in early 2015.
Funding for the Stable Families Pilot project comes from the philanthropy community, as well as federal, state and local funds.
Heidi Schmidt Boyd