Actions that add to the development of more affordable housing, increase the dollar amount of disability entitlements, or expand subsidized housing would benefit a wide swath of very low-income people, expanding the safety net and preventing some from falling into homelessness. The Section 8 program is a major source of federal housing assistance to individuals and households living at or below 30 percent of an area’s median income. The tenant who receives a housing choice voucher pays 30 percent of the cost of a private market dwelling, while the program covers the remainder of the rent costs up to a maximum amount. The Section 8 program currently operates as a lottery, as funding for the program falls far short of providing rental assistance to all who may need it. It has been suggested that making a housing subsidy an entitlement for people with incomes at the poverty level could markedly reduce the homeless problem in the United States (Olsen, 2010).
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP), an initiative of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) that allocated $1.5 billion over three years, pushed mainstream homeless policy toward prevention (Culhane et al., 2011). When ARRA funding ended, the Homelessness Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH) established the continuation of homeless prevention through the Emergency Solutions Grant program. Intended to serve people on the brink of homelessness, assistance provided includes short- and longer-term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services, such as mediation, credit counseling, security and utility deposits, utility payments, moving cost assistance, and case management (USDHUD, 2009).