Lessons Learned: Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative

Author: Staff

Key Takeaways

  • Case management facilitates access to homelessness programs.
  • Housing does not measurably change despite increased homelessness program use. 
  • Case management improves housing stability when it is intensive and pays financial assistance quickly. 

Mechanics

King County, Washington’s Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative (YFHPI) is committed to making homelessness an experience that is rare, brief, and non-recurring by promoting healthier, more resilient youth and families. YFHPI’s case management is based on a model of progressive engagement that allows a case manager to provide services that are individualized for the client situation. This can mean anything from providing support with landlords and housing/employment searches to helping families with childcare and financial assistance. Flexible financial assistance is also a component of the program. YFHPI is offered by a network of implementing social service agencies across the county.

To evaluate the impact of YFHPI on housing stability and other outcomes, LEO researchers analyzed data for people who applied to the program between January 2018 and March 2020. Applicants were separated into two study groups. The treatment group received YFHPI services consisting of case management paired with flexible financial assistance. The control group receive financial assistance only. Participants in the funding-only group received an average of $1,445; participant who also received case management services received an average of $1,425. The case management recipients received slightly less financial assistance on average because they were more likely to exit the program before receiving funds when compared to the funding-only group. However, the case management recipients who engaged with their case managers were more likely to receive larger amounts. 

LEO researchers linked participant records with data from the Homelessness Management Information System, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, and records that indicate address changes and evictions compiled by the Housing Justice Project to understand how participants’ housing stability changed as a result of participation in YFHPI. LEO also used qualitative observations and interviews and program records to analyze how different agencies implemented the program in practice.

What We Learned

The results of the Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative study found that case management recipients were four percentage points more likely to access homelessness programs like shelter or supportive housing within 12 months than those who received only financial assistance (7.8 percent versus 3.5 percent). This may indicate either changes in participants’ housing situations or changes in access to services during a crisis.

Despite this increased homelessness program use, there was no evidence of housing changes. Eviction filings and address changes within 12 months do not show measurable differences among the two groups.

There were, however, higher rates of arrest. Case management recipients were nearly four percentage points more likely to be arrested than participants who received only financial assistance (6.9 percent versus 3.7 percent).

Finally, the researchers found that having variety across agencies does matter. Those agencies providing more intensive case management displayed decreases in eviction filings and increases in homelessness program use. At the same time, agencies with delayed funding show an increase in eviction filings.

Where We’re Going

Based on LEO's findings, King County has already modified this program so that case management focuses on intensive services for fewer clients and clients get emergency financial assistance more quickly. In addition, LEO's evaluation will continue with the addition of data that includes details about earnings and employment status of participants. LEO will also conduct longer-term follow-up to increase the understandig of YFHPI's impact. 

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