‘Rapid Re-Housing’ an effective method for helping homeless

Confronting Homelessness

What are some of the causes of homelessness and what are solutions?

The most common cause of homelessness is the cost of housing. Now more than ever, homes that low-income people can afford are not available. It’s a hard reality but without affordable rental options, people face homelessness.

Health problems are another cause. Even though living in a home is key to managing health, poor health makes it difficult to earn the income needed to pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, transportation and housing.

Another sad fact is that survivors of domestic violence often become homeless when leaving an abusive relationship. Domestic abuse is a common experience for many homeless youths, single adults and families.

What’s the solution? The solution is a home! As a community, how are we addressing this and what are some ways that people in the community can help be a part of this solution? I’ve talked to many who want to help but just don’t know how.

To end homelessness, a communitywide coordinated system that will deliver services, housing and programs is necessary. Maui Homeless Alliance members are working hard developing and implementing this type of coordinated system, which is a major building block to the success of “Housing First.”

A primary component of this system is called “Rapid Re-Housing,” which is an intervention designed to quickly move people from homelessness to permanent housing and into the services needed to help them stay in a home. When people are quickly moved into a home, they become more stable and are better equipped to handle the challenges that led to their homelessness.

Living in a home makes it easier to obtain employment and deal more effectively with substance-abuse issues. Rapid Re-Housing is an effective method for helping the vulnerable and chronically homeless move into homes — those who are usually more difficult to serve, including people with limited or no income as well as survivors of domestic violence.

Research demonstrates that those who receive this type of assistance are homeless for shorter periods of time. It is also proving to be less expensive than other homeless interventions, such as shelter or transitional housing. Nationally, the annual average for transitional housing costs per family is $32,557 while it costs $6,578 for the rapidly re-housed. For more information on these statistics, please visit endhomelessness.org, and a great video to watch about Rapid Re-Housing is found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=frWexyi6qAk&t=3s.

Rapid Re-Housing is where people in the community can help make a difference. First, if you want to help, don’t try to act alone; we are far more effective when we work together. In addition, please do not make assumptions that nothing is being done. Outreach workers are aware of the people you see living on the streets, in the parks and on the beaches. They are continually visiting these folks, trying to help them and identify those who want a permanent home.

Not everyone wants help or wants a home. However, even when they say they don’t want help, the outreach workers continue to visit and offer help with housing. These workers never give up on anyone, believing that everyone wants to live in the safety of a home.

Second, more housing is needed as the Homeless Alliance continues to move people into homes. If you have a unit that could be used as a low-income rental, will you consider working with the Homeless Alliance? There was recently a landlord’s summit sponsored by the alliance. Many of the landlords who attended have made decisions to help but more rental units are needed.

Another way the community can help is through employment. As people move from homelessness into homes, they need to earn an income so that they can afford to continue staying in their home. Affordable Housing is not intended to be endless handouts; it is a means that helps people move from helplessness to self-sufficiency.

* Joyce Kawakami is a full-time volunteer, founder and CEO of Feed My Sheep Inc. As an active member of the Maui Homeless Alliance, she chairs the Awareness Committee. The alliance meets on the third Wednesday of each month at Maui Economic Opportunity, 95 Mahalani St. in Wailuku. Community members are welcome to attend; for information, call 242-4900.