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Prevention – Outcome 7

Families are identified as at-risk and assisted prior to losing housing

The cost to rebuild family life after loss of home and the majority of household possessions is staggering. Natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and floods make this painfully clear. This devastation is also experienced daily by the hundreds of people evicted from their homes because they cannot pay the rent.

A recent study conducted for HUD1 shows the high cost of homeless programs for individuals and families who primarily need permanent housing without supports or those whose service needs can be met by mainstream systems. The study of families in four communities (Houston, Washington, DC, Kalamazoo, and Upstate South Carolina) demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of providing housing assistance support over homeless system supports. For the four communities, the average cost per family to the homeless services system ranges from $3,184 in Kalamazoo, to $20,031 in Washington, D.C.

In almost all cases studied, the costs associated with providing housing and services for literally homeless families far exceeds the Fair Market Rent cost of an apartment, even if the rent were fully subsidized.

The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) is providing valuable lessons for the prevention and rapid rehousing of those at risk and experiencing homelessness. From October 2009 – March 2011 a total of 2,086 families received HPRP assistance. The average amount provided to each at risk (not yet homeless) family in San Diego County for rental and other financial assistance for that time period was $3,362; the average financial assistance provided to literally homeless families was $3,257 Homeless prevention and diversion are substantially more cost effective than emergency shelter or transitional housing, and have significantly better outcomes for families.

The Keys to Housing stakeholders prioritized groups of families at risk of homelessness for targeted assistance:

  • Families receiving unlawful detainer and/or eviction notices
  • Families losing their housing due foreclosure
  • TANF/CalWorks families

These highest risk families, often identified through services provided by the San Diego County Office of Education school-based homeless liaisons, would receive legal assistance and landlord mediation services, referrals to resources, enrollment in workforce training programs, and emergency financial assistance. A coordinated strengthsbased case management system utilizing the Navigator role would assist families to receive appropriate services to prevent homeless episodes.

As low-income families will continue to be challenged by the risks of homelessness even after the future economic recovery, prevention efforts will be needed ongoing for our most vulnerable populations.

What we will measure to track our progress over time:

  • Annual SDCOE count of children/families identified by housing category
  • Households assisted with eviction prevention through Legal Aid Society for non-payment of rent
  • Housing status of targeted families as reported in RTFH database


1Spellman, B., Khadduri, J., Sokol, B, & Leopold, J., Abt Associates, Inc., March 2010, Costs Associated With First-Time Homelessness for Families & Individuals, www.huduser.org.