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Policy & Advocacy

Strategies supporting a strong and healthy community.

There is no single strategy sufficient to completely address or end homelessness. Interventions in housing, health, and income stabilization should be holistically integrated, allowing individuals experiencing homelessness to find their unique path to health and wellbeing. Further innovations and strategic interventions beyond currently accepted evidence-based strategies will likely be required to achieve this goal. Such innovations will require interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration, including coordinated, focused efforts from policymakers, governmental agencies, social services agencies, health care, and researchers.

Community Rebuilders Policy Positions

INCREASE SUPPORTS TO PROMOTE HOUSING STABILITY:  Programs aimed at increasing income stability and financial independence should be integrated into housing and health interventions, as the provision of housing alone will not be sufficient to end and prevent homelessness.

In the case of individuals with disabling conditions, increasing access to Social Security disability benefit programs or Veterans Administration disability benefits for Veterans helps provide the cash benefits and health coverage that are key for housing stability. With respect to overcoming barriers in application processes, research indicates that comprehensive application assistance can increase the approval rate for homeless individuals from 28% to 73%. [7] Additional research documents that programs providing Social Security Insurance/Disability application assistance to homeless individuals exiting the justice system report increased housing stability and reductions in rearrests and incarcerations, thus decreasing system costs.

ACTION STEPS: We call upon federal, state, and local agencies to provide comprehensive assistance to homeless individuals with disabling conditions in applying for any disability benefits for which they qualify. Community Rebuilders calls upon federal, state, and local agencies to promote allocation of funds and services that provide individualized employment support and training to assist homeless individuals in obtaining competitive employment.

HOUSING FIRST MODEL: The Housing First model was developed as an alternative to the paradigm that individuals need to achieve “housing readiness” by attaining sobriety, complying with psychiatric treatment, and learning skills for independent living prior to qualifying for a permanent housing placement. In contrast, the Housing First model is based on the tenet that housing is a basic right and should be provided without prerequisites; this harm reduction approach values consumers’ choices in terms of their own needs and readiness for treatment or substance use reduction. [2] While the Housing First model encourages the provision of supportive wraparound services, its use is not limited to permanent supportive housing, and the principles should be applied whenever housing services are provided to individuals experiencing homelessness.

ACTION STEPS: Community Rebuilders calls upon federal, state, and local agencies to identify and adopt interventions that demonstrate adherence to the Housing First model. These program prioritize low-barrier access to housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, across all housing program types.

CONSTRUCTIVE ALTERNATIVES TO THE CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMELESSNESS: Many states and municipalities continue to pass laws that criminalize behaviors associated with homelessness, such as sharing food and loitering. While some of these laws have been struck down, many more are taking up costly resources to enforce and are ineffective in reducing homelessness or the criminalized behavior they are intended to deter. Internationally, human rights courts and national constitutional courts are increasingly recognizing a fundamental right to housing and pursuing housing-related solutions to these behaviors, rather than a criminal remedy. As a result, it is critical for communities in the United States to adopt constructive alternatives to criminalizing basic life-sustaining activities that individuals must perform in public spaces if there is no shelter or housing available. [3,4]

ACTION STEPS: Community Rebuilders calls upon federal, state, and local agencies to identify and adopt alternative solutions to criminalizing homelessness, including supporting efforts to increase access to safe and affordable housing.

INCREASE HOUSING AFFORDABILITY: More than 5.1 million low-income households in the United States receive federal rental assistance so that they can afford housing, with funds directed to elderly citizens, people with disabilities, veterans, and working families. Federal rental assistance is delivered through a number of programs, including tenant-based rental assistance and the Housing Choice Voucher program. These programs allow very-low-income families, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly to choose safe, affordable housing in the private market.

ACTION STEPS: Community Rebuilders urges Congress to adequately appropriate funds for rental assistance options, including the Housing Choice program, to ensure that we can meet future commitments and community needs for affordable housing.

Community Rebuilders urges federal, state, and local agencies funding housing and homelessness services to expand their commitments to provide resources for permanent supportive housing programs, rapid rehousing programs, and prevention of homelessness appropriate to levels of unmet need, as demonstrated in federal reports.

1. Kauff JF, Clary E, Lupfer KS, Fischer PJ. An evaluation of SOAR: implementation and outcomes of an effort to improve access to SSI and SSDI. Psychiatr Serv. 2016;67:1098–1102

2. Zerger S, Pridham KF, Jeyaratnam J, et al. The role and meaning of interim housing in Housing First programs for people experiencing homelessness and mental illness. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2014;84:431–437.

3. Bauman T, Rosen J, Tars E, et al. No safe place: the criminalization of homelessness in US cities. Available at: https://www.nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place.

4. Tars ES, Johnson HM, Bauman T, Foscarinis M. Can I get some remedy: criminalization of homelessness and the obligation to provide an effective remedy. Columbia Hum Rights Law Rev. 2013;45:738.