Practices for Solving Homelessness and Increasing Affordable Housing in California

Learn about evidence-based, best, promising, and emerging practices that affect homelessness and housing in California.

Evidence-based practices are founded on the integration of research results with clinical expertise, which helps professionals make decisions on proven results and not on personal experience or anecdote as has all too often been the case in homelessness service provision. Examples of these include:

  • Permanent supportive housing, an evidence-based housing intervention for persons who have a disabling condition and are in need of subsidized housing for which they pay no more than 30% of their adjusted monthly income. On-site and off-site services are provided. Services may be short-term, sporadic, or ongoing. Supportive services may include education, emergency assistance, employment, health care, mental health care, substance use counseling and treatment, and trauma care.
  • Housing First, an evidence-based practice recognized by the federal government and the State of California. The practice involves providing permanent housing as a necessary precursor to receiving supportive services. The practice also involves removing barriers to housing related to income and treatment that have prevented persons from obtaining and maintaining their housing.

Best practices  are methods or techniques that have been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because they  produce results which are superior to those achieved by other means. These practices are not considered evidence-based because not enough rigorous research has shown them to be effective, which may yet happen. Examples of these include:

  • Rapid rehousing, recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a best practice when coupled with a Housing First approach. In rapid rehousing, the provision of rental assistance and supportive services is temporary because of an expectation that a household will be able to maintain their housing on their own after the assistance ends.
  • Housing navigation, recognized as a best practice by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Navigation involves helping a household that is homeless develop a housing plan, address the barriers identified during the plan, and acquire documentation and complete forms required for housing. It also involves housing search which includes attending property owner meetings, setting appointments, and assisting with paperwork related to housing applications. Navigation also includes tasks involved with securing housing including inspections, utility startups, and moving into housing.

Promising practices  are that those that have the potential to effectively address issues of concern in a community. Promising practices usually, though not always, seem to have worked elsewhere. They are  judged by standards that make sense for a specific community and a given issue like homelessness. Examples of these include:

  • Coordinated entry system, which prevents homelessness or addresses the immediate crisis of homelessness, then connects families to the most appropriate level and type of assistance based on their strengths and needs. It includes an assessment that identifies and scores a household’s needs and makes prioritization decisions based upon factors that include length of time homeless and the severity of service needs.
  • Bridge housing, temporary housing in which there are no preconditions such as sobriety. This is in contrast to shelters and transitional housing programs that have “housing-ready models” in which residents must address various issues (e.g., substance abuse) that led to their episode(s) of homelessness prior to entering permanent housing. In bridge housing, treatment and compliance are not required in exchange for help with obtaining permanent housing. Residents work with housing navigators to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible and receive home-based supportive services including substance abuse services if agreed upon and needed.

Emerging Practices are those that are in the thinking and/or planning stages and have not yet have been widely implemented. Examples of these would potentially include:

  • Mathematical models to help explain a system, provide insights into the effects of different components of the system, and make predictions about behavior regarding persons who are entered into the system. The model might include various subpopulations of persons who are homeless and the issues that have contributed to their homelessness and need for housing and services.