New York City’s Homebase Program: Preventing the Loss of Existing Housing for At-Risk Households

New York City developed a homelessness prevention program, known as Homebase, in 2004, applying many of the elements that would later be incorporated into the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program. The Homebase program, initially targeted at family households, consists of neighborhood-based centers designed to serve community residents at risk of losing their housing, thus preventing an entry into the city’s shelter system. The threat of homelessness can occur for a variety of reasons, such as an impending eviction, job loss, or a behavioral health problem. Eligible householders are assigned a case manager who addresses the immediate threat to housing loss and develops a sustainable plan for housing stability. Service plans, developed in collaboration with and tailored to the needs of the householder, can involve direct case management services, tenant and landlord mediation, employment assistance, legal services, mental health and substance abuse services, and short-term financial assistance.

In the start-up phase of Homebase, the program was established in only a select number of community districts in the city. Messeri et al. (2012) took advantage of the pattern of implementation of Homebase to conduct a quasinatural experiment to estimate the impact of Homebase on entries into the shelter system. Using New York City Department of Homeless Services administrative data, shelter entries in Homebase districts were compared with shelter entries in a matched sample of community districts without the Homebase program. Findings revealed that Homebase reduced between 10 and 20 shelter entries for every 100 families it served. The average decrease in shelter entries among equally weighted census tracts was 5 percent, and about 11 percent among equally weighted community districts (Goodman et al., 2016). In a controlled trial of a later version of Homebase, Rolston et al. (2013) found that Homebase reduced shelter entries and also lessened the length of shelter stays for those who entered the shelter system. Homebase has not been studied with severely mentally ill people at risk of losing their housing. The state of Massachusetts has, however, developed a homelessness prevention program for this high-risk group.

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