HUD released the final evaluation report of the Rapid Re-Housing for Homeless Families Demonstration (RRHD) Program. The evaluation, conducted by Abt Associates Inc., found that families enrolled who participated in rapid re-housing had a low likelihood of returning to homelessness within 12 months of exiting the program but experienced a high degree of residential mobility during the same period.
Rapid re-housing is a Housing First approach designed to help homeless families quickly exit emergency shelters with a combination of housing search assistance and a short-term rental subsidy (usually less than 18 months). Other services focus on preparing the family for the conclusion of rental assistance. The model was developed by local service providers and expanded nationally through RRHD funding in 2009.
One objective of the evaluation was to determine whether rapid re-housing is an effective intervention for homeless families with moderate barriers to housing stability. Effectiveness was defined by whether participating families avoided homelessness and housing instability in the twelve months following their exit from a rapid re-housing program. Researchers used a combination of Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data, a 12 month follow-up survey, and address histories to track outcomes for 500 families previously enrolled in RRHD. Most of the participants in the study were under 35, female, single, and African-American, and a majority had one or two children. Most participants were unemployed and recipients of cash or noncash benefits.
The evaluation found that only 10% of families in the study had returned to homelessness in the 12 months following the conclusion of RRHD rental assistance. Those families who did return to homelessness were more likely to be headed by young parents between the ages of 18-24. The study found no significant correlation between domestic violence, number and age of children, or disability status and returning to homelessness. Although families with incomes at or above 30% of the area median income at time of program intake were less likely to return to homelessness, cash income at the conclusion of rental assistance had no detectable effect.
The evaluation also examined housing stability. Seventy-six percent of families moved at least once in the 12 months after exiting the program, with only 24% remaining in the unit where they received RRHD rental assistance. The evaluation provides evidence that rapid re-housing can be effective in preventing a return to homelessness but not in ensuring housing stability.
The relatively small sample size, variability in RRHD implementation, and lack of a comparison group of homeless families who did not receive RRHD assistance prevent conclusions to be drawn about the effectiveness of rapid re-housing compared to other interventions.
In addition to surveying and tracking 500 participants, the researchers also analyzed HMIS data for all 1,459 families previously enrolled in RRHD. In this larger sample, 6% of families returned to homelessness in the 12 months following program exit. Analysis of the larger sample indicated that returning to homelessness was 40% less likely for families living in housing markets with vacancy rates greater than 5%. The manner in which the RRHD was implemented also influenced the likelihood of families returning to homelessness.
Evaluation of the Rapid Re-housing For Homeless Families Demonstration (RRHD) Program is in two parts. Both are available at: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/rapid-rehousing-program.html