Increasing Local Housing Options Helps Reduce Any Additional Trauma for those Experiencing Homelessness (March 2017)
As many of you know, Cornerstones is a key partner in the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness. In 2008 this partnership, comprising local government agencies and nonprofits, set out to implement a “10-year Plan” to prevent and end homelessness in our high-cost-of-living area. Now in its ninth year of implementation, the partners have made significant strides in reducing homelessness – a 42% drop since 2008 – and have worked tirelessly to advocate for a county-wide commitment to increasing the stock of affordable housing. There has been some success in developing new housing options, such as the Bridging Affordability program which provides rental subsidy and support through a case manager for up to one year to help residents maintain stable housing. However, the fact remains: it is extremely challenging to find affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness in our community, even when they are working full-time.
And then there is recidivism – people falling back into a state of homelessness after being housed. While it is great to know that 72% of households leaving homelessness in Fairfax County are able to find housing and remain housed, 28% of households cannot seem to stay stable; a dilemma that might possibly be averted if people could get longer-term, customized support to tackle the often multiple barriers to their stability. Cornerstones already provides that support through its Community Care Management service, where clients have access to experienced social workers who can help them come up with action plans for addressing those barriers, but more needs to be done.
Last year in an attempt to find new ways to address both the dearth of affordable housing and reduce recidivism, not to mention the rapidly diminishing funding stream for homeless services, Cornerstones collaborated with the County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) to develop an innovative approach to addressing these interrelated problems: to encourage local landlords to offer more of their housing units to those exiting homelessness through an incentive program that guarantees follow-on care management support to rapidly rehoused clients to help them remain stably housed and become good tenants.
Increasing local housing options helps reduce any additional trauma for those experiencing homelessness related to accepting housing that is far away from their workplaces, their children’s schools, and known support networks. Moreover, by investing more intentionally in an effort to increase housing availability locally, Cornerstones and OPEH seek to uphold and support the “One Fairfax” resolution that speaks to the County’s commitment to create the conditions for all residents to “live, learn, work, and play” and have equitable access to opportunities that enable them to participate and prosper in Fairfax County.