In North Carolina over 30,000 children under age 6 are homeless1 and yet the units and beds available to support homeless families has declined by 9% and 11% respectively since 2017.2
Housing First/Children First – Why Can’t We Have Both?
Housing First is a program model with a philosophy that emphasizes stabilization with housing as first and primary. After housing is established, wrap around services can be provided to help individuals and families move towards independence. This means active addiction will not keep people from entering shelter or housing. Also individuals are not required to participate in supportive services; educational, skill building or “life skills” classes; counseling or any other services in order to access shelter or housing. Housing First literally stands on the principle that housing is a basic necessity to give people the stabilization necessary to eventually have the capacity to participate in other supports. There is good research behind it and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) emphasizes Housing First in their homeless service grants.
Partners for Impact has worked with family shelters across the state that are predominantly funded through HUD. Our role is often to provide technical assistance to these shelters to strengthen their services for young children under age 6 because we recognize that the trauma of homelessness impacts young child brain development. Supportive interventions for children at this stage can make a lifelong impact and possibly break a generational cycle of homelessness. Shelter staff have shared with us that, due to their funding source (HUD), the majority of their focus is on getting families into permanent housing as quickly as possible and that they do not focus much on the children unless parents request specific referrals for child care.
We believe that addressing the needs of young children in shelters does not conflict with the Housing First model! It does require additional resources and intentionality.
We will be sharing some of our thoughts and strategies about this at the Bringing it Home Conference on May 2nd. We hope to see you there.
1 2021. U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Office of the Chief Data Officer, Early Childhood Homelessness State Profiles: Data Collected 2018-19
2 2022 Consolidate report by CCSA