In recent years, family homelessness has become an increasing concern, both in Baltimore and nationally. In Baltimore, families with minor children comprise more than a quarter of the city’s homeless population. Because of the unique needs of homeless families with children, homeless service providers have begun to develop new models for serving them. One of the most prominent of these models is called “Rapid Rehousing,” which seeks to move homeless families into permanent housing as quickly as possible. The rapid rehousing model provides short-term rent subsidies and financial assistance for other housing-related expenses, coupled with housing search assistance and case management, to move families quickly out of shelters and into affordable rental housing, with a goal of stabilizing them and enabling them to live independently.
In 2014, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore launched a rapid rehousing program for homeless families, called the Front Door Program. The Front Door Program incorporates several best practices to provide targeted resources and services to homeless families to enable them to become self-sufficient. Clients have access to a range of services, depending on their needs and interests, including employment training and placement support to help them increase their income. Case management is provided on a voluntary basis for up to nine months, with additional support available to those who want it after the program ends.
The Front Door Program served 51 families in its first year of operations and expects to serve 65 families in the second year. An evaluation by Abt Associates will track, among other things, housing stability of program participants, income and employment, school enrollment and attendance (for children), food security and access to benefits, and returns to homelessness. Studies of other rapid rehousing programs have consistently found that most clients do not return to the homeless services system after exiting a rapid rehousing program. In an effort to continue to improve the Front Door program, St. Vincent de Paul will use client data and feedback obtained from the Abt evaluation to strengthen and enhance the program model as needed.