Almost all of the 250 families involved in a King County rapid rehousing pilot project have found homes, according to a county-wide agency that combats homelessness.
All Home King County’s project launched in November 2013 with the goal of reducing the amount of time that families remain homeless and expanding housing options for those families. As of March, roughly 20 families in the first cohort — which continued enrolling people until Dec. 31, 2014 — still needed to find homes, officials said.
When that group wraps up, All Home will conduct a full evaluation of the program.
The pilot targeted homeless families with at least one adult over 18 and children under 18. Ninety percent of families who applied qualified for the program, according to an interim report from July 2015.
At the time of the report, 60 percent of families had found housing within three months, a fifth of the average time that families spent in transitional housing.
Many consider rapid rehousing the current gold standard of homeless services policies, because it prioritizes housing over other outcomes such as sobriety or employment. The All Home rapid rehousing program pairs families with “Employment Navigators” to help participants find jobs and get them off the program’s financial assistance.
Still, the policy is a compromise, less successful at keeping people in housing than direct, long-term subsidies such as federal housing vouchers.
It remains the cheapest alternative because it moves people quickly into housing and then tapers off financial assistance.
It’s also more accessible — funding cuts at the federal level led to a decrease in the number of housing vouchers available nationwide.
People enter lotteries in the King County region to be accepted onto long waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 85,000 fewer households received vouchers in December 2014 than two years prior.
A 2015 report by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development found rapid rehousing has similar success rates as transitional housing at a lower cost, and a 2012 King County presentation estimated that the county could house five times as many people using rapid rehousing policies as transitional.
It isn’t a perfect solution. Rapid re-housing relies on the private housing market without the extensive subsidies offered by housing vouchers, which can cover the majority of an individual or family’s rent. That may mean leaving places like Seattle for more affordable communities.