Lifting the Burdens From Struggling Families

Just today, the Obama Administration announced the President's intention to seek $11 billion to address family homelessness. This level of federal investment would lay a solid foundation for ending homelessness for our nation's families.

In the coming months, CSH will focus greater attention on families facing homelessness, including those struggling to exit the cycle of poverty and trauma that has brought them into contact with child welfare agencies. We also will elevate the housing-based solutions that can transform their lives.

When families confronting a host of challenges such as mental illness, severe medical conditions or substance use find themselves without a decent home, child welfare agencies often feel they have no choice but to place the children in foster care.

Research tells us this is likely not the best outcome for parents or children. Evidence strongly indicates children moved into foster care struggle with education attainment, life skills and mental well-being. Most alarmingly, we know nearly 40% of the adults in homelessness indicate they have been in foster care.

Looking for solutions that work better for children and parents, CSH is partnering with housing providers, those involved in homelessness services, and child welfare agencies to create supportive housing models that keep families together.

Supportive housing not only increases housing stability, it has been shown to improve family outcomes in multiple domains such as education, employment and health care access. Families are strengthened with services focused on parenting, substance use and mental health. The end result can be a halt to the intergenerational cycle of child neglect and homelessness, and a new generation of young people who are living more stable, productive lives.

CSH is proud of two initiatives that have helped advance supportive housing as a solution to overcome the complex obstacles confronting vulnerable families. The findings from our Keeping Families Together program, funded through the generosity of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, demonstrate the benefits of parents caring for their children, staying and working together to holistically address challenges. The early learnings from this initiative set the stage for replication across the country.

In 2012, the federal government, taking note of the promise of Keeping Families Together, initiated a national demonstration project now active in five communities to see if supportive housing can be effectively tailored to improve child welfare outcomes for trauma-impacted families.

On a broader scale, federal agencies have taken the lead in evaluating several aspects of family homelessness. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released a well-regarded study showing rental assistance vouchers - which help make the housing in supportive housing affordable - are the most effective way to keep struggling families housed. Of the $11 billion being proposed by the President, $8.8 billion would be earmarked for vouchers.

To ensure access to the stability that comes with a home, CSH has been asking the White House and Congress to substantially increase the supply of affordable housing and the number of rental assistance vouchers available to families. There is a growing bipartisan consensus that more needs to be done and we encourage federal, state, local and philanthropic stakeholders to approve strong investment in housing-based solutions.

I am urging Congress and our state and local leaders to support President Obama's proposal and to embrace actions that guarantee an adequate portion of such investments are targeted to our nation's most vulnerable families -- those at the intersection of homelessness and child welfare involvement.

What we know is there is a window of opportunity to support resiliency among struggling families and child welfare-involved children. By providing safe, affordable housing linked to services that address the needs of parents and their children, we believe vulnerable families can stay together under one roof and thrive.