By Mary K. Cunningham, Mike Pergamit, and Sarah Gillespie, How Housing Matters, June 5, 2019.
Many families who come to child welfare agencies after a report of child abuse or neglect are experiencing homelessness or severe housing instability. Nearly 11 million households (PDF) nationwide are paying too much for rent, and about 1.4 million people use homeless shelters and transitional housing over the course of a year. There is no place in the country where there is enough affordable housing.
Children experiencing homelessness or living in inadequate and unstable housing are exposed to many risks, including a heightened threat of involvement with the child welfare system. Can child welfare agencies play a role in addressing the lack of affordable housing? What if providing housing, plus other supportive services, could prevent out-of-home placements to foster care? What if, for those children already in foster care, it could help them reunify with their parents?
In 2012, the US Department of Health and Human Services launched Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System to answer these questions. The demonstration provided $5 million in five-year grants for intensive wraparound services to be linked with permanent, affordable housing marshalled by five demonstration communities (Broward County, Florida; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Connecticut; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Francisco, California).