HFH Update 2/2006
Update on the HomeBase Prevention Program
Homelessness prevention efforts in New York City have received renewed
emphasis since the beginning of the Bloomberg administration in
2002. HomeBase is a Department of Homeless Services (DHS) pilot
project to prevent new cases of homelessness by offering services,
referrals and financial assistance to families through partnerships
with community-based organizations in six high-need neighborhoods (see
the ICP Bulletin from May 25, 2005).
The first sixteen months of the HomeBase program show mixed results.
According to DHS, from September 2004 to the end of December 2005,
HomeBase centers have served 2,967 families and single adults, 68% of
which are families with children. Most clients have cited pending
eviction or overcrowding as the reason for utilizing prevention
services. More than one-third of clients are on public assistance
and 23% have a prior history of shelter use. Thirty-three percent (33%)
of clients are already employed when coming to HomeBase for the first
Results from the HomeBase centers themselves
report that one-third of all services administered or referrals given
by the program organizations have been employment-related, either for
training or job searching, while 22% of services have involved advocacy
to help clients access public assistance benefits. A majority of
financial assistance is used for rent arrears payments, with the
remaining funds used to purchase furniture or for deposits and broker
These evaluation results will
certainly allow DHS and the HomeBase organizations to adjust the
program to better fit the requirements of the population they are
trying to serve. However, they also raise many questions about
the structure and future of the program. These questions include:
- Are HomeBase services reaching the population most in need?
services to families most at risk is one of the main obstacles to any
prevention effort. The average age of the head-of-household client
accessing HomeBase services is almost 36 years, while the majority of
adults in the family shelter system are under 29 years old.
Therefore, prevention efforts have to focus on addressing the unique
needs of the younger population, mostly young mothers with small
children, in order to provide them with the services they need to avoid
entering the shelter system.
- Are the HomeBase offices located in areas where they can reach the largest number of at-risk families?
is undoubtedly a need for prevention services in the six community
districts where outreach offices are now located, but the impact could
be greater if efforts were expanded into more areas. Low-income
families living in gentrifying neighborhoods are particularly at risk
of facing a future bout of homelessness. In Washington Heights
alone, more than 15,000 families are facing eviction due to inability
to pay rising rents.
Smaller HomeBase centers in neighborhoods like this could reach those
at-risk families before they exhaust all their resources and have no
choice but to turn to the family shelter system.
- Should HomeBase centers be more involved in after-care services?
homelessness is a significant risk factor for becoming homeless
again. DHS reports that of the 5,600 families referred to
after-care services from March 2004 through December 2005, only 45%
utilized these services. For those families who did, only 1%
returned to the shelter system. Expanding the number of HomeBase
centers and allowing them to offer more after-care services would
increase the chance that more families would utilize those services and
remain in their homes.
- Are HomeBase program funds being used effectively, and furthermore, is the program effective?
the end of December 2005, the HomeBase program has served over 2,000
families with children at an estimated cost of $3.4 million. To
date, HomeBase has underspent a significant portion of its direct
assistance budget. Consequently, it remains to be seen how
financially and programmatically effective these efforts will be.
Nonetheless, prevention should be both cheaper and preferable to
sheltering a family and the first course of action in sustaining
Program administrators and service
providers alike should consider these questions in order to target the
families most in need of services and be able to expand prevention
efforts to neighborhoods across the city. Otherwise, the City
runs the risk of failing not only the families they do reach, but also
those families they don’t.
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