Bridges has provided Rapid Rehousing services over the past three years, and we consider it to be a core competency of our organization. The goal with Rapid Rehousing is to move a client into housing within 30-45 days. The work involves extensive case management with the client and supplemental rental assistance payments for 12 to 18 months if needed.
Rapid Rehousing is grounded in the “Housing First” model, which experts increasingly view as an effective solution to homelessness. The Housing First approach believes that people experiencing homelessness need necessities like food and a stable home before focusing on other tasks such as getting a job, budgeting their money, and attending to their mental health. Studies have shown that the Housing First approach helps people exit homelessness quickly and remain housed for the long term. For example, at Bridges, 85% of families transition from Rapid Rehousing programs to stable, permanent housing without additional subsidies.
Over the past year, the pandemic has created a wave of new Rapid Rehousing clients at Bridges. In the early days of the state of emergency, Howard County’s Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) moved about 40 unsheltered homeless individuals into long-term motels in a strategy to limit the transmission of COVID. As the pandemic dragged on, Bridges met with DCRS, and together it was decided our rehousing approach could rapidly move these individuals out of motels and into permanent housing. DCRS referred 16 of 40 individuals to Bridges, and our team was able to rehouse 11 of them within 30 days. Humanim, Grassroots, and the Department of Corrections Reentry team rehoused others, leading to a successful housing push in the late summer of 2020. Additional pandemic relief funds have allowed another housing push to begin this spring, with Bridges receiving referrals for 18 other individuals living in the Grassroots temporary shelter.
Candidates for Rapid Rehousing usually have significant challenges. Many suffer from mental health issues, severe health conditions, and addictions and have not yet received appropriate treatment. Most are unemployed or underemployed and do not have the resources necessary to stay housed during a crisis (like a pandemic). Almost all lack the education and skills needed to manage their money, debt, and credit.
Bridges’ Rapid Rehousing team spends significant time providing case management to each client. The case manager first conducts an assessment to determine the client’s vulnerabilities and understand the household’s housing needs. Then, using the Housing First approach, the case manager’s initial focus is to find housing for the client while simultaneously working on setting goals with the client that address their vulnerabilities. This work involves extensive collaboration with other service providers in the community, referrals to financial coaches and employment specialists, and then home visits and ongoing case management monthly once the client is rehoused.
Finding a willing landlord is a critical challenge. DCRS funding can supplement the client’s rent for 12 to 18 months if needed – while the client develops their employment income – to assure landlords receive rent payments for that timeframe. Also, a double security deposit and a financial guarantee mitigate the landlord’s fears about property damage. But landlords are also concerned about the longer-term, and they do not relish the idea of having to turn over a rental unit after only one year if the client/tenant cannot grow their income enough to afford rent on their own.
The cost? Usually between $8,000 and $15,000 per household for rental subsidies. While that might seem significant, the result is a substantial decrease in costs to our community. People who are stably housed are less likely to use emergency services, including hospitals, jails, ambulances, police intervention, and emergency shelter than those experiencing homelessness. The average homeless shelter spends $11,000 per person per year. Rapid Rehousing gives people independence, takes them out of a crisis, increases safety, and provides a permanent housing solution for about the same or less average cost.
Rapid Rehousing works, and we’re proud to be the leading provider of Rapid Rehousing services in Howard County.