Being homeless is stressful for anyone. But that stress is magnified for parents who struggle to provide a safe environment for their children. One of our longstanding clients, First 5 LA, set out to support families with young children through a Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative. Administered by the Los Angeles Community Development Commission, the initiative provided families with a case manager who coordinated an array of services to help families find stable housing. Harder+Company conducted a formative evaluation of the initiative to help First 5 LA and the Community Development Commission improve their efforts going forward.
The Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative served almost 1,000 families across the Los Angeles region, mostly young, single parents with children under the age of 6. These families had lived in temporary settings like emergency shelters, motels, cars and with family members before they entered the Initiative. Families entered the program needing help with everything from buying groceries and clothes for their kids to applying for public support like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Some of the families also faced deeper mental health or domestic violence challenges that required more intensive support. Families were supported by experienced case managers in the Initiative who helped them secure housing and coordinate a range of additional supports to help homeless families stabilize their lives.
Harder+Company’s evaluation showed that the Initiative clearly helped participating families. By securing stable housing and supportive services, the Initiative allowed parents to focus their energy on vocational training, getting a good job, and addressing stress and anxiety. The evaluation demonstrates the critical importance of good case managers who understand and can respond to the multiple, complicated challenges that push families into homelessness. While there is much to appreciate about the Initiative, our evaluation also found opportunities to improve supportive housing in Los Angeles continues by:
- Supporting collaboration and learning across the agencies that serve homeless families;
- Investing in high-quality case management to support family self-sufficiency;
- Strengthening connections to the mental health system; and
- Creating a centralized program data system for serving homeless families.
We applaud First 5 LA for investing in supportive housing in Los Angeles and in evaluation that can improve this critical support to families and children.
Read more about our evaluation findings here.