You are on page 1of 3

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2012

CONTACT: Allyson Stewart

Email: Phone: (312) 870-4940


CHICAGO A report released today shows ARRA funds put to work in Chicago providing housing assistance and support services to students and families at risk of homelessness showed promise in finding new ways to serve this vulnerable population. In 2009 the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support services received ARRA funding to help students and families living in a doubled-up situation (living with friends or relatives in housing inadequate for more than one family) find stable housing and improve their school attendance and grades. The program, called the Student Family Support Services Initiative (SFSI), served 220 households (879 people, of whom 611 were children) considered at risk of becoming homeless by the Chicago Public Schools and located in Chicagos Englewood neighborhood. School-age children in SFSI were enrolled in 31 different public schools across Chicago: 10 percent were in high school and 90 percent in elementary school. With the support of implementation partners Heartland Human Care Services, Inc., Beacon Therapeutic Diagnostic and Treatment Center, and Heartland Health Outreach, SFSI provided participants with comprehensive services including housing assistance, employment assistance, wellness and mental health services, and asset building services. This unique integrated approach sought to improve students educational performance and benefit their family overall by addressing the familys primary housing and employment needs first. Lead report author and director of the Social IMPACT Research Center Amy Rynell commented on the need for a program like SFSI in Chicago, explaining We are at a unique moment in time. The number of doubled-up families is extraordinarily high and the poor economic conditions are not forecasted to improve substantially for some time. SFSI was created to intervene with these families to help them stabilize, support their familys needs, and engage in needed services. Program Evaluation The report, an evaluation of SFSI conducted by the Social IMPACT Research Center, showed the program was very effective at reaching those students and families identified as at-risk. It also revealed that housing assistance, provided by SFSI via ARRAs Homeless Prevention and Rapid Housing Program, was key to preventing homelessness, stabilizing families, and improving student performance. At the time of program entry, nearly all households were living doubled-up and had experienced homelessness an average of 2.4 times in the past, spending an average of 18 months homeless. The majority of families who participated in SFSI have since assumed responsibility for their own rental housing without needing a subsidy (71.2 percent) and 1 in 10 (9.6 percent) have assumed responsibility for rental housing using a different housing subsidy, such as a Housing Choice Voucher. A small share, 6.4 percent, resides with family on a temporary basis. The program also showed a positive impact on students educational outcomes;

students whose families received housing assistance earned a higher overall grade average, driven mainly by improved reading and language arts grades. Housing Situation Post-Program

SFSI served participants like Linda, a single mother of four. (Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.) As the report describes, Linda came to the SFSI program with no income, limited work experience, and a criminal background from a prior domestic violence arrest. Linda and her children were living doubled-up and lacked financial independence and stability. Further, Linda was suffering from untreated high blood pressure because she had no health insurance. During her involvement with the SFSI program, Linda received critical assistance in obtaining housing and a job, and developed a transition plan to complete her GED and work to clear her criminal record. Recommendations SFSI demonstrated an effective way to reach a group of families living on the cusp of homelessness that has historically been ineligible to receive services in the homeless system. In particular, SFSI spurred innovation and partnerships across funding sources and agencies. This approach fostered SFSIs integrative approach to services and built capacity within schools and communities to support doubled-up and homeless families, and increased the capacity of parents to advocate for their rights and the rights of their children. However, the students and families served by SFSI still face major challenges. As mentioned in the IMPACT report, future such programs would benefit from a program design that can support addressing long term needs in addition to immediate crises and allows for reenrollment of some families if the first housing placement does not stick. The report also points to a need for increased support for at-risk students whose overall grades improved after receiving housing assistance through SFSI but still struggled in school. The new federal HEARTH Act is opening up new opportunities to serve vulnerable students and families at risk of becoming homeless. In addition, there are opportunities within current funding sources (HUDs Emergency Solutions Grant program, The Community Services Block Grant, TANF and Federal HOME grants) to replicate an effective program with a proven track-record like SFSI.

We are pleased to have led a successful collaboration with SFSI and the Chicago Public Schools, noted Commissioner Evelyn Diaz of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services. In the end we were able to extract some very valuable information for future programs while helping improve the quality of life for a very vulnerable group. As Chicago begins to undertake planning to implement the new opportunities under the HEARTH Act, SFSI can serve as a model of what we know about targeting doubled-up families through a housing and services intervention Rynell remarked on the importance of SFSI for future homelessness intervention planning.


Please contact Maura McCauley, Director of Homeless Prevention, Policy & Planning, Phone: 312.746.7447, Email:

Please contact Amy Rynell, Phone: 312.870.4943, Email:


Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights is the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest and believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those we serve to rebuild and transform their lives. The Social Impact Research Center (IMPACT), the research arm of Heartland Alliance, provides dynamic research and analysis on todays most pressing social issues and solutions to inform and equip those working toward a just global society.