Series of Briefs Offer Evidence-Based Guidance and Best Practices for Community Responses to Unsheltered Homelessness

The 2020 Annual Homelessness Report to Congress (AHAR) reported that more individuals experiencing homelessness were unsheltered than were sheltered for the first time since federal data collection began in 2007. Communities across the country are under pressure to develop policies and partnerships that serve the needs of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness while also addressing the concerns of other residents and businesses. CESH expert Stephen Metraux and Advisory Board member Barbara Poppe co-authored a series of topical briefs, recommendations for local leaders and stakeholders, and community profiles based on their research on how communities across the country are responding to the rising number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Arnold Ventures funded the research project that involved a literature review, interviews with national experts, and site visits to nine localities that are moving towards non-punitive, solutions-oriented approaches in responding to unsheltered homelessness through innovative collaborations between homeless services providers, first responders (police, fire, EMS), and local governments. The nine sites were chosen to represent a variety of geographic regions, population size, and socioeconomic and housing market conditions.

The series identifies four required components along with multitude of entities who need to working together to successfully address unsheltered homelessness:

Source: Arnold Ventures

Four separate briefs offer recommendations to health care providerslaw enforcementproviders of homeless services and local leaders in order to meet these components. For example, Poppe and Metraux identified seven common effective responses for homeless assistance system, Continuum of Care, and service providers:

  1. Foster collaboration across sectors with a full range of partners
  2. Use data to inform policy and practices
  3. Provide training on engaging with people experiencing unsheltered homelessness
  4. Have sufficient housing available using a Housing First approach
  5. Promote non-punitive, low-barrier practices within the homeless assistance system
  6. Reduce chronic homelessness
  7. Maintain strong outreach services

Three topical briefs dive into further detail about establishing low-barrier and non-punitive responses, inclusively managing public space, and strengthening outreach with engagement.

Finally, the series includes nine community profiles that highlight the key successes and lessons learned in the community’s adoption of innovative approaches to responding to unsheltered homelessness. For example, the profile on Philadelphia featured the City’s “Hub of Hope,” a low-barrier engagement center located a subway concourse that connects people with housing and services while also providing meals, laundry, and a safe space to spend the day.

The links to all of the briefs can be found below and on the Arnold Ventures website.



Special Topics

Community Profiles