Success in Rapid Rehousing
Posted on: August 30, 2022
Rapid Rehousing & ESG
At the very start of the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act to help stabilize the economy. The law included funding for the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program that has since filtered down to Western New York. Partnering with the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier, we’ve been able to create a program that’s provided supported housing for nearly 20 people. Compared to our other housing programs, ESG is designed to be short-term as it follows the Rapid Rehousing format. Stacy Arlain, our Housing Services Manager, has overseen the program for a few months now. “It’s a quick, six-month window,” she explained.
Like most Rapid Rehousing and ESG programs, ours features wraparound support services like case management, vocational assistance, and others. Program participants meet with staff at least once a month or more often if necessary. They also receive financial assistance with the security deposit, rent, furniture, back utilities, and more.
What’s different in ESG compared to our other supported housing programs is the step-down model of this financial assistance. Each month, the financial assistance is reduced until the program participant is 100% responsible for their rent by the end of the program. “It is the least restrictive kind of supported housing,” explained Stacy. “They’re expected to not need us.”
This requires that people are very up-front about their individual financial situation. To help, Stacy and the Housing staff collaborate with program participants on what they call an “honest” budget. It includes an extremely transparent look at all of their income sources and potential expenses. Stacy stresses that setting clear expectations at the beginning is key.
This model isn’t for everyone because of the gradual step-down of financial assistance. Staff across Caz Recovery have been very careful to select people within our current programs who would be able to do well with these expectations. “It has to be people who are really, truly ready to live independently,” said Stacy. Staff talk about the strengths of applicants and whether they may have had previous experience with living independently.
Ensuring that the ESG program accepts participants who would do well has been a collaborative effort between staff all across Caz Recovery. It’s included Reintegration, Supportive Living, and Housing programs along with Finance staff. “It’s been everybody working together,” said Stacy. “We couldn’t have done this without everyone.”
Thus far, our approach with the ESG program has been successful. Many program participants are employed, and the first graduations from the program will happen next month. Stacy pointed out that the reason why this program has been so effective is because we’ve taken a true, person-centered approach.
Each applicant is reviewed thoroughly, and we weigh other potential options for them if they’re better suited. For example, Stacy recently referred an ESG applicant instead to Garden Lofts, another Caz Recovery supported housing program. Garden Lofts typically has a longer length of stay. This was perfect for this individual, and they’re now thriving. “The last thing we want to do is set someone up for failure,” said Stacy. “We try to target people that are going to be the most successful.”
The ESG program will be winding down over the next year or so, and we’re expecting to have supported over 25 people with the short-term assistance. We also have an ESG program through the City of Niagara Falls that will wind down in the fall of 2023.
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