We can stop homelessness before it happens. Effective prevention strategies use the latest research to target emergency financial assistance and housing stabilization services to the people most likely to experience homelessness.
All Home is advancing a regional prevention strategy to keep people in their homes, reduce the number of people who experience homelessness across our region, and help redress racial disparities in who becomes homeless.
The need for a regional strategy
Across the Bay Area, at least three people are becoming homeless for every one that is housed. The Bay Area’s undersupply of housing, along with extreme income inequality, low-paying jobs that don’t cover high housing costs, and a fraying social safety net, are forcing people into homelessness. Our homeless response systems are overwhelmed: shelters are full and inadequate, driving people and families outside or into their vehicles. Unsheltered homelessness is on the rise in many parts of the region.
When All Home started, there was no regionally accepted definition of what homelessness prevention really meant. There were, however, promising examples from the field using research to target prevention services based on actual risk of homelessness.
- Santa Clara County: Destination: Home launched its Homelessness Prevention System (HPS) in 2017. Since the pilot phase, the HPS has served over 4,500 households, with a 96% housing retention rate after one year and a 90% housing retention rate after two years.
- City of Oakland: Bay Area Community Services (BACS) launched Keep Oakland Housed (KOH) in 2018. Since the pilot phase, KOH has provided more than 3,800 households with emergency financial assistance, with an 82% housing retention rate.
But most cities and counties—to the extent they were funding homelessness prevention at all—were not targeting their limited resources efficiently. They were serving clients on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than targeting emergency financial assistance and other prevention services to those most at risk of ending up on the street. We knew the region could do better and set out to help make it happen.
All Home’s Regional Homelessness Prevention System
All Home’s Regional Action Plan—the RAP—provides a roadmap for rapidly reducing unsheltered homelessness by 75 percent across the region. To get there, we need to invest simultaneously in pathways to permanent housing, as well as preventing homelessness in the first place.
In 2021, All Home launched COVID-19 emergency rental assistance pilots in three Bay Area cities: Fremont, Oakland, and San Francisco. With our partners at Bay Area Community Services (BACS) we developed an online platform—with a unique portal for each city—where households could apply for help in several languages. The platform used a predictive, research-based assessment tool to prioritize applications based on the applicants’ risks of actually experiencing homelessness. The platform supported immediate service delivery as well as integrated verification processes for service providers.
We are currently expanding these pilot programs into a first-of-its-kind, regionally coordinated homelessness prevention system with programs in three counties (and counting). Our program model pairs rapid, flexible financial assistance with housing stabilization services, including legal services for households facing eviction and an employment services pilot for jobseekers.
Keep Oakland Housed also uses our system, but isn’t currently accepting applications.
The Road Ahead
Our model strives for better household outcomes—preventing the trauma and disruption of homelessness for people and families—and better system outcomes too. The more we can fund our model at scale, the more clearly we might see system impacts: reduced numbers of people experiencing or returning to homelessness, and less demand for shelters and interim housing that don’t have the capacity to meet the current need.
All Home is in the process of engaging an academic research partner to evaluate our regional system operations so we can learn from and share our results. We know that strong prevention programs—scaled to meet community needs—are absolutely critical to reduce homelessness regionally, statewide, and nationally.