Alternative Shelter Models to Address Rising Family Homelessness: Preliminary Investigation into the Social and Economic Benefits of Master Leasing Apartments as Emergency Shelter

The provision of adequate temporary housing to homeless families is a major concern for policy makers and practitioners across the country, particularly during challenging economic times. Prior to the current recession, homeless families already comprised one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. The present “perfect storm” of mounting unemployment, deepening poverty, and the mortgage meltdown has left many, if not most, communities across the country ill prepared to deal with rapidly rising family homelessness,ii because homeless assistance programs and systems were already struggling to provide appropriate emergency response for homeless parents and their children.

While “rapid rehousing” of homeless families, or “housing first,” 1 is the preferable approach for most families, the reality is that efforts to identify rental units, obtain financial assistance or rent subsidies, when necessary, and assist families in moving in, often takes time. Even as localities and agencies across the country are transitioning to various “housing first” models, the need for families to be sheltered during the process remains constant. Many communities, however, do not have sufficient shelter capacity or may not have any capacity at all, as is common in most rural and some suburban areas of the country. Even in the metropolitan areas that have relatively substantial shelter infrastructure, the current economic turmoil and attendant increases in family homelessness are challenging the ability of these Continuums of Care to respond to the needs of vulnerable families.

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United States