Tacoma reports progress in homeless prevention program

The City of Tacoma’s Human Rights and Human Services Department has helped more than a thousand Tacoma residents escape homelessness through a Recovery Act Rental Assistance Program, according to a report recently presented to Tacoma City Council.

Between Oct. 1, 2009 and June 30, 2012, the program aimed to stabilize families and individuals in crisis by offering the right balance of financial assistance coupled with services such as case management and financial counseling. It was established with an infusion of approximately $1.18 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The City of Tacoma worked in collaboration with six partner organizations – Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services’ Phoenix Housing Network, Pierce County Housing Authority, South Sound Outreach Services, The Salvation Army, Tacoma Corps, and Washington Women’s Employment and Education.

“We were ambitious. We wanted to help low-income families and individuals who were at risk of becoming homeless, or who were already experiencing homelessness, reach housing stability within 90 to 180 days,” said Human Rights and Human Services Director Linda Villegas Bremer.

The program achieved 123 percent of its service target in the area of homelessness prevention, according to the report. Of the 446 individuals helped in this category, 70 percent achieved housing stability. In the area of rapid re-housing, the program achieved 198 percent of its service target, according to the report. Of the 557 individuals helped in this category, 88 percent achieved housing stability.

“Our primary area of focus was in the area defined as ‘unsubsidized’ housing stability,” said Villegas Bremer. “This means that when families and individuals left the program, they had reached a point where they could pay their own rent and utilities.”

Some families and individuals needed longer-term support to reach housing stability, however, and they were connected to longer-term community assistance to maintain housing while they continued to work on reaching an “unsubsidized” level of housing stability.

Elements of this completed program will now be included in the City’s Emergency Solutions Grant Program, which provides emergency shelter, homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing to low income families and individuals, and is funded with $267,188 allocated from an Emergency Solutions grant issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The complete report is available online here.