Rapid rehousing gets the UI treatment
A review of existing literature on the effectiveness of rapid rehousing programs by the Urban Institute found that the program achieves similar (and potentially better) results than people left to navigate a return to housing by themselves and is roughly 10 percent cheaper. Future research is needed to answer key questions, chief among them the utility of the program in tight, expensive housing markets.
Rapid rehousing is a crisis response intervention that uses limited subsidies and case management to move homeless individuals and households into housing. People remain on the program for roughly a year or less before losing the subsidy altogether.
The report draws heavily from large research including the Family Options Study, the Rapid-Rehousing for Homeless Families Demonstration and Supportive Services for Veteran Families. The first is a randomized controlled trial that measures the impacts and costs of rapid rehousing, transitional housing, permanent housing subsidies like Section 8 vouchers and the emergency shelter system.
The Family Options Study, one of the most robust methods of measuring the differences in program outcomes, found that rapid rehousing and “usual care” — the control group where households and individuals in emergency shelter navigate the system on their own — shows no statistically significant differences between groups assigned to rapid rehousing and usual care when it came to housing stability, and no difference in returns to shelter.
However, the experimental design of the program couldn’t differentiate between people in the experimental group who were referred to a rapid rehousing program and those who actually used it. A nonscientific analysis in the same report found that 23 percent of households who used rapid rehousing returned to shelter compared to 33 percent of people that did not use the program.
One benefit, according to the report, seems to be that rapid rehousing is cheaper than usual care and provides more support to enrolled households.
“Leaving households to navigate exiting shelter on their own by accessing existing services (i.e., usual care) is analogous to a canoe zigzagging across a lake,” the report reads. “[I]t takes too long and is an inefficient way to get to the other side.”
Despite early success, there’s still a lot that researchers want to know about the program, specifically if, at scale, the program moves more people into housing than become homeless in order to reduce the overall amount of homelessness.
Also key is if the program’s effectiveness differs between housing markets. One criticism of the program’s use and expansion in Seattle is that it was sold to the city based off of information from Houston, Texas, a city with different rates of housing vacancy and cost. Existing studies showed little difference between markets, but rising rents in urban areas may impact future results, the authors say.
But Seattle officials have increased investment in rapid rehousing, putting $4.3 million into the program in the Human Services Department’s most recent round of competitive funding.
Death penalty in a coma
The Washington State Supreme Court put a halt on the use of the death penalty in the state, finding that the pervasive racial bias in the existing system made the law unconstitutional.
This is at least the fourth time that the state’s death penalty laws have been ruled unconstitutional, according to the opinion.
To be clear, the judges did not declare the death penalty unconstitutional. It could still come back if lawmakers create a “carefully drafted statute” that doesn’t trample people’s constitutional rights.
“As noted by the appellant, the use of the death penalty is unequally applied — sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant,” the justices wrote.
The case underlying the decision, State v. Gregory, concerned a defendant who was found guilty in 2001 of aggravated first- degree murder. The state Supreme Court affirmed that conviction, but reversed rape convictions against the defendant and remanded the case for resentencing. He was again sentenced to death. The state prepared for a new rape trial, but found that one living accuser had lied at the time of the first trial and dismissed those charges.
But the defendant was still facing the death penalty, and when the state Supreme Court reviewed the case, it found significant disproportionalities by race. A statistical analysis of capital sentencing between 1981 and 2014 found that Black defendants were between 3.5 and 4.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated non-Black defendants.
Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which filed a brief calling for the death penalty to be struck down, called the unanimous decision a “profound statement,” and Mayor Jenny Durkan called it the “right decision for our state.”
“As a former prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer, I saw that the death penalty did not work and perpetuated racial and social injustice,” Durkan said in a press release. “In reality, the death penalty does not deter crime, does real harm in delaying justice for victims and communities and does not reflect our best values — it also diverts resources from valuable and effective public safety initiatives.”
While the justices took pains to say that the Legislature could draft a new death penalty law, Gregory Epps, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore, wrote in the Atlantic that careful wording choices by the justices mean that the state court’s opinion is “not based on the U.S. Constitution, and its rule will not change if the nine justices in Washington change their view of the Eighth Amendment.
“Whatever the federal constitutionality of the death penalty, Washington state is now out of its misery,” Epps wrote.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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