HHS, Private Foundations Join Forces to Address Family Homelessness

September 12, 2012

Kenneth J. Wolfe, 202-401-9215, Kenneth.Wolfe@acf.hhs.gov



Washington, DC —

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is teaming up with four national foundations to fund a $25 million grant to five organizations nationwide.  This grant will fund a supportive housing project designed to address homelessness and keep families together.  Families comprise the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, now accounting for more than one third of the overall group.

The five grantees are Kids in Distress (Wilton Manors, Fla.), Community Alliance for the Homeless (Memphis, Tenn.), Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), the San Francisco Human Services Agency, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

ACF will provide $1 million per year to each of the five grantees for five years ($25 million total) to demonstrate the effectiveness and potential cost-savings of projects incorporating stable housing and comprehensive services that focus on safety, positive family functioning, and child well-being. The initial funding opportunities were announced in June.  Funding for the following four years is dependent on the availability of funds and grantees meeting certain benchmarks.

Additionally, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation will provide a combined total of at least $10 million over the next five years.  This money will be used for technical assistance and rigorous national evaluations of the supportive housing plan’s effectiveness.

“We know that supportive housing can make a critical difference in helping struggling families stay together and get the services they need,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We need more such innovations in social welfare to solve complex problems like homelessness and foster care involvement.”

This cooperation supports President Obama’s public-private partnership directive, aimed at combining public and private sector funds, skills, and resources to solve community problems. Supportive housing is also an important step toward ending family homelessness, a key goal of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is chaired by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“Homelessness has pushed too many of our neighbors in to the margins,” said Secretary Sebelius, “keeping them from achieving their full potential and depriving society of their best contributions.  Financial crises, substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence often lead people into episodes of homelessness.  Then homelessness makes them worse.”

This supportive housing plan builds on a successful pilot effort, Keeping Families Together, which paired supportive housing in New York City with on-site case management for families experiencing chronic homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, and/or child welfare involvement.  Three years after the pilot ended, the overwhelming majority of the families had stable housing, six children previously placed in foster care were reunited with their biological families, and school attendance improved steadily.

The public cost of Keeping Families Together was $3 per day, including the cost of housing and rehabilitation services.  This compares to public costs per day in New York City of $54 for a shelter, $74 for a prison, $165 for a jail, $467 for a mental hospital, and $1,185 for a traditional hospital, all in the same area, according to a report by the Partnership to End Long-Term Homelessness. 

ACF’s new initiative aims to determine whether similar programs could be effective in other areas of the country.

“As more states move toward serving families safely outside of foster care, it has become more apparent that families face multiple challenges,” said Commissioner Bryan Samuels of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.  “This initiative is designed to help us identify high need families earlier and to provide the right set of targeted services that lead to meaningful family improvements.” Improvements include reducing child abuse and neglect, reducing the number of foster care placements, and increasing housing and employment stability, Samuels added.

This initiative also aims to spur local philanthropic organizations and local and state public agencies to join forces at the community level, similar to the partnership that has been developed between the administration and national foundations.

To learn more about HHS homelessness programs and grants, visit http://www.hhs.gov/homeless/.



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