The State of Rhode Island partnered with United Way, the Realtors Association, and community providers such as NLIHC’s state partner, Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, to provide permanent housing for 123 people who had been experiencing homelessness and staying in hotels since the onset of the pandemic. The Housing NOW campaign, led by the Housing Action Team, secured 100 pledged units from landlords in one month. Landlords were willing to accept rapid rehousing vouchers due to a variety of incentives. The sustained efforts of the team to house additional unsheltered people is critical, given the filing of over 400 eviction cases in the first month alone since the reopening of district courts in June and the filing of over 400 eviction cases in that first month alone.
The issuance of rapid re-housing vouchers, coupled with incentives for landlords, has provided safety and security for individuals and families living in congregate shelters. Tenants pay 30% of their income toward rent and the landlords are paid the difference between the total rent and what the tenant can pay. Landlords who agree to accept vouchers receive a bonus of $2,000 for the first unit and an additional $500 bonus for each additional unit. They may also receive up to $2,000 for upgrades like minor renovations and repairs.
In addition to obtaining 100 pledged units to rapidly re-house individuals and families, Housing Action Team members are striving to meet a weekly housing move in rate of 10 persons/week for the rest of the year, an additional goal of the Housing NOW campaign. The success and sustainability of the effort is due to a variety of endeavors by team members. They regularly host action-oriented meetings centered on task assignments and breaking through barriers to finding homes for people. They leverage cross-sector partnerships to maximize impact and use a team approach for solving problems. Lastly, the Housing Action Leadership Team is comprised of people with lived experience, which leads to solutions that consider the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Another component of the campaign’s success is direct involvement of the Governor’s office in the effort. Staff from Governor Gina Raimondo’s office are part of the efforts to identify and match available, vacant units with homeless households. Governor Raimondo has been a champion of the Housing Action Team, holding press conferences highlighting the landlord incentive program and the need for landlords to commit units to Rhode Islanders with the greatest needs.
The success of the pledged units for the landlord incentive program is far from the end of the road. The Housing Action Team continues to:
- Seek additional units;
- House more individuals and continue organizing and coordinating shelter cleanings, bolstering personal protective equipment (PPE) and necessary cleaning and hygiene supplies for shelter and outreach programs; and
- Ensure mobile COVID testing, protocols for symptom screening, and access to safe quarantine and isolation spaces, hygiene stations, and non-congregate shelter programs.
“The biggest challenge through all of this has been the same challenges so many other sectors have been experiencing,” said Jennifer Barrera who is currently juggling being the RI-HMIS Program Manager and the COVID lead at the Coalition. “When your scope of work is constantly changing, making progress in the face of daily triaging is hard. We’ve had to learn how to truly be flexible and quick thinkers in order to get this work done,”
Learn more about the Housing Action Team and the Housing NOW Campaign.