Contributing Editors

Jerome Lyle Rappaport

Jerome Lyle Rappaport
Founder and Board Member
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Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser
Professor of Economics at Harvard University
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Stephen P. Johnson

Stephen P. Johnson
Executive Director of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation
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Greg Massing

Greg Massing
Executive Director for the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service
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Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts
Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School
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Joseph Curtatone

Joseph Curtatone
Mayor, City of Somerville
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Tim H. Davis

Tim H. Davis
Independent Research Consultant
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Scott Harshbarger

Scott Harshbarger
Senior Counsel, Proskauer Rose LLP
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Vivien Li

Vivien Li
Executive Director of The Boston Harbor Association
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Guest contributors

Monika Bandyopadhyay
Suffolk University Law Student

David Barron
Harvard Law School and former Deputy Counsel for the Office of Legal Counsel in the US Department of Justice

Linda Bilmes
Senior lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Assistant Secretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration.

Brandy H.M. Brooks
Director, Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Bruner Foundation

Felicia Cote
Rappaport Fellow, Harvard Law School/Harvard Kennedy School.

Amanda Eden
Suffolk University Law School student

Sara Farnum
Student, Suffolk Univ. Law School

Kristin Faucette
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Benjamin Forman
Research Director, MassINC

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday
JD/MBA student at Suffolk University Law School and the Sawyer School of Business

Theodore Kalivas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

David Linhart
Student, Boston University School of Law

Antoniya Owens
Research Analyst, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Susan Prosnitz
Senior Advisor, TSA, Washington, DC

Ben Thomas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

Matthew Todaro
Student at Boston College Law School

Alexander von Hoffman
Senior Researcher, Joint Center for Housing Studies

Brett Walker
Student, Boston College Law School

Margarita Warren
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Articles by David Linhart

Adapting Massachusetts' "Housing First" Policy for Family Homelessness

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
By David Linhart

 The administration of Governor Deval Patrick is midway into a five-year campaign to end homelessness in Massachusetts. On July 11, 2011, Patrick signed a law intended to move families into permanent housing quickly, rather than offering temporary shelter first. No one really knows what will help families who receive assistance to stay housed for the long haul, but encouraging supportive relationships with other assisted families is certainly a step in the right direction.

The campaign to end homelessness is driven by the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH), comprised of the heads of fourteen state agencies and chaired by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. ICHH is committed to a “housing first” approach that unconditionally provides housing and support services to homeless people. “Housing first” represents a clean break from previous state policy that required housing to be earned through compliance with a recovery program and rules on sobriety and other conduct. Rather than returning homeless people to the shelters and the streets for lack of compliance, “housing first” begins with housing and then introduces further help on a voluntary basis. This new approach mitigates the cost of homelessness to taxpayers since shelters, motels, emergency rooms, and jail cells are more expensive than housing with support services. This approach also offers hope of eliminating homelessness rather than managing it—a potentially striking achievement.

An eighteen-month pilot study of statewide “housing first” efforts, however, shows mixed results: a reduction in homelessness of individuals, but an increase in homelessness of families. The number of families temporarily sheltered in motels is rising. This outcome means permanent housing is replacing temporary shelter for homeless individuals but not families.

As a result, the state is experimenting with a variety of family-oriented innovations such as offering young parents household management instructions in group settings. Teaching life skills to young parents in groups mirrors the ICHH’s recent adoption of peer support models, such as the “friends helping friends” approach. The Family Independence Initiative (FII) developed the “friends helping friends” approach to help families make connections, pool resources and invent solutions amongst themselves. The state is also emphasizing connections to community-based services such as health care and childcare. In essence, the state is stepping in until ongoing supportive networks take over, such as relationships formed among neighbors, at work and in community groups.

ICHH recognizes that remaining housed is largely a matter of being able to pay for housing costs, whether as a tenant or as a homeowner. Families that are able to increase their income stand a better chance of holding onto their homes once state support has ended. Individuals rather than families, however, are better positioned to career climb to better paying jobs.

Here’s one way to sum up job searches: even when new employment is scarce, it never dries up completely, and the best jobs go to the top achievers. Getting a better paying job might involve academic degrees and certifications as well as extensive searches. For many top-achieving students, that process is itself a full-time job. In a world where career shifts are common and strategic, the on-the-job learning curve includes more than developing basic competence. New employees need to build professional networks bigger than the employer, and they need to keep track of opportunities for career growth. For many ambitious employees, that process can turn a new full-time job into a special period of doing little outside of career climbing.

The challenge for families is that childcare becomes a full-time job for a parent or it eats up a full-time salary before any other bills get paid. Cultural preferences may arise in terms of how much time a parent should spend with a child. Schools look for parents to get involved in activities and educational networking, and the best opportunities for a child will be missed if a parent does not. It may be common to hear stories of individuals focusing on a career and then on a family, or of one parent focusing on a career while the other focuses on the family. But less common are the stories of parents being fully available to families and careers at the same time.

When it comes to family homelessness due to lack of income, giving parents access to the same career climbing techniques that individuals use may be insufficient. Innovation is needed to allow families to build layered networks of support at the same time, from professional organizations to educational institutions to childcare providers. Any successes will have the double benefit of building housing stability for families while also creating a family-friendly path to economic mobility.

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Former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey speaks about political parity at the Rappaport Center
Triumph of the City: Ed Glaeser talks about his new book on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
 MA Attorney General Martha Coakley Hearing on Sexual Exploitation Online
Mayor Menino attends Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Course for high school students
Arianna Huffington and Alan Khazei speaking at the Rappaport Center
U.S. Representative Barney Frank speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School, cosponsored by the Rappaport Institute.
Statnet panel of current and former heads of local performance management programs including Stephanie Hirsch (far right), former head of SomerStat and Devin Lyons-Quirk, third from right.
HKS Professor Jeffrey Liebman (left) spoke about new ways to spur policy innovation at a State House briefing sponsored by State Representative (and former Rappaport Urban Scholar) Charles Murphy (right).
Gov. Deval Patrick speaking at the Rappaport Center's Gubernatorial Speakers Series

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