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Housing report and resource round-up

Last week was a busy one for the housing advocacy community, with lots of new reports, resources, and materials coming out that will better inform our work. Here’s a quick run-down of four reports that offer new data and insights into our issues.

The first two come from the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity: year-end reports on the Housing Opportunity Grant Program (HOP, formerly the Emergency Services Grant) Annual Report and the Family Supportive Housing (FSH) Annual Report.


Housing Opportunity Grant Program

The HOP Annual Report focuses on the services and shelter provided by publicly-funded, privately operated nonprofit partners, and gives insight into changes in the population experiencing homelessness in Vermont as well as the services and results achieved by the system of care.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the HOP report, from Sarah Phillips and Emily Higgins at the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity:

  1. HOP-funded emergency shelter served 3,872 people for a total of 194,505 bednights. Over 1,100 of those sheltered were children.

  2. The average length of stay was 50 days, the longest reported in 16 years.

  3. More than a quarter of all HOP grant funding (~$1.9 million) were investments from the General Assistance Emergency Housing program to increase community alternatives to motels.

  4. 87% of those sheltered were connected with a case manager within 3 days, 37% of households in emergency shelter receiving case management were stabilized in permanent or transitional housing.

  5. Nearly 74% of total households served by Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing were stabilized in permanent housing within 30 days.

For additional context and information, including demographic information and funding allocation, read the full report here.


Family Supportive Housing Annual Report

The Family Supportive Housing Annual Report focuses on the program outcomes for the past state fiscal year (SFY). Family Supportive Housing (FSH) is a program that provides intensive case management and service coordination for homeless families with children. FSH strives to address and remedy the root cause of homelessness for each family experiencing homelessness while promoting resiliency and building financial capacity. So far it operates in seven Vermont Counties. Statewide expansion of the program has been one of the Affordable Housing Coalition’s annual legislative for the last few years.

Here are some of the key takeaways for the FSH SFY 2018 report, from Sarah Phillips and Emily Higgins at the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity:

  1. FSH enrolled a total of 187 families, with 183 adults and 273 children (81% of whom were under the age of 6).

  2. FSH providers enroll families when they are homeless and help families secure rental subsidy and/or affordable rental units. The median amount of time families were homeless in SFY 2018 prior to being housed through FSH increased nearly to nearly 7 months, from 3.5 months in 2017. This suggests the program is prioritizing high needs families.

  3. At the end of SFY 2018, 131 families were still enrolled in FSH. 94 of these families (72%) were stably housed. 21 families exited the program in SFY 2018.

  4. Among families exiting, 90% (19) moved on successfully.

  5. Of families participating in FSH, 46% (60) were involved with the Family Services Division at enrollment and only 7% (9) lost custody of a child during enrollment with FSH.

When compared with other supportive housing programs, many of these outcomes – particularly 90% of exiting families moving on successfully – are exceptional.

For additional information, read the full report here.

OEO Director Sarah Phillips will be at the December 12 Affordable Housing Coalition meeting to provide an overview of the two reports.


VHFA’s Housing Data Website

The next resource is the Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s (VHFA) rebooted Housing Data website. There are two main features of the new website: a housing locator and new community profiles.

The interactive housing locator displays every apartment made affordable through public project-based subsidies, and provides users with a list of vacant apartments and a direct link to the common tenant application accepted throughout Vermont. New filters allow users to search for housing that fits their specific needs, making them more empowered to make informed decisions about their housing.

In addition to the apartment locator, the new website has “community profiles” for every Vermont town and county. The profiles feature lots of different national and Vermont-based indicators that regional planners, housing professionals, and decision makers can use to better assess their community’s needs. Since many different stakeholders use the community profiles, the standardized data will improve the quality of discussion surrounding local housing needs and maximize the impact of public resources.

These features will undoubtedly inform and guide many upcoming discussions about housing in Vermont. Visit the website here, and check out a VHFA blog post with additional information. If you are attending the Statewide Housing Conference next week, be sure to attend the breakout session on Wednesday that will walk-through this amazing tool.


FrameWorks Affordable Housing Messaging Report

The final resource is a new messaging guide from the FrameWorks Institutes about how to frame our affordable housing advocacy. While many Vermont advocates have been involved in housing policy discussions for years, it’s important to remember that there are many people who haven’t been – and we need to frame our messages in a way that appeals to them and gets them on our side.

This guide will likely be most useful for communications and social media specialists; however, anyone involved in the affordable housing conversation can find important takeaways for how they talk about the issue. The guide is very thorough and has plenty of examples and explanations for messaging. Go here for the full report.

Taken together, these four reports represent a lot of information and insight into how we talk about homelessness and affordable housing in Vermont. With data we can more easily convey to others the scope of the work we’re doing; likewise, with messaging we can move people to take action, get involved, or otherwise support our work. Please remember to keep these resources in mind when talking about affordable housing.

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