Monday, November 10, 2014

What Housing Authorities Can Do to Address Problems of Homeless People and Families

As promised, here is the handout with the main points, MaryAnn Russ, Dallas Housing Authority President and CEO, and MDHA board member, discussed during her breakout session at the annual HATS – Housing Authority Symposium Texas. Hopefully, many more housing authorities will follow her example!

1. Decide to address the problem of homelessness – this is an issue both for staff and Boards. Many homeless individuals have serious behavioral and physical health issues and PHA staff are not necessarily equipped to deal with these matters.

2. Work to build linkages with agencies that serve homeless people and people with disabilities – these alliances will be essential to succeed in this effort;

3. Understand that the issues of chronically homeless individuals and homeless families with children are often very different and respond to different solutions;

a. Homeless families with children often attempt to conceal their status because they do not want to lose their children to Child Protective Services;

b. Children “aging out of foster care” are in danger of becoming homeless;

c. A fairly high percentage of families with children become homeless due to domestic violence;

4. Consider “accrediting” agencies that work with homeless families and individuals – such accredited agencies can both verify homeless status and provide ongoing services to people the PHA houses. PHAs have something these agencies want and need – permanent housing for their clients;

5. Determine the role the PHA will play in assisting with the reduction of homelessness – is the PHA going to provide only permanent housing to people whose health issues are stabilized or is it going to provide the assistance for Permanent Supportive Housing? Both services are needed;

6. Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is housing that is linked with services so formerly homeless individuals and families can receive assistance with a range of issues in their housing;

7. Establish admissions preferences in both the public housing and housing choice voucher programs for homeless individuals and families

a. This requires amending both the ACOP and the Admin Plan as well as the Annual Plan;

b. The PHA must define what qualifies as “homelessness”. PHAs are not required to use the Hearth Act definitions;
c. Consider dialing back criminal history screening to cover just the Federally prohibited crimes (manufacturing methamphetamines in Federal housing, being subject to lifetime registration requirements as a sex offender);

8. Provide or obtain training and ongoing support to PHA staff so that the housing provided to homeless people can be preserved. Not much is accomplished by admitting homeless folks and then evicting them as soon as something goes wrong.

9. Assume that people who are working to recover from substance abuse will occasionally fall off the wagon and create safeguards so they can pick themselves back up.

No comments:

Post a Comment