Abstract: Transitioning from Homelessness to Housing in Rapid Rehousing: Perspectives of Young Adults (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

263P Transitioning from Homelessness to Housing in Rapid Rehousing: Perspectives of Young Adults

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Anil Arora, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Sarah Narendorf, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Gabriela Westbrook, MSW, MSW student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background and Purpose: Approximately 3.5 million young adults aged 18-25 experience homelessness (YAEH) each year (Morton et al, 2018). YAEH disproportionately come from BIPOC and LGBTQ populations and experience a wide range of adverse health and mental health outcomes. There is a critical need to develop interventions to promote housing justice. One approach to ending homelessness is to quickly house YEAH through supported housing first programs like rapid rehousing (RRH;Youngbloom, et al, 2021). Standardized elements for RRH include housing navigation, rental support and case management (USICH, 2015). But, RRH was initially developed for adults and families, and there is wide variation in how programs provide support for YAEH (NAEH, 2017). Few studies have examined the experiences and support needs for young people within RRH programs in order to develop standardized support models for YAEH specifically. Our study investigated the strengths and limitations of support provided to YEAH during RRH and the process of transitioning from homelessness to housing.

Methods: YAEH who resided in RRH apartments in one city were recruited through case managers at agencies that provided YA-specific RRH. Respondents (n=10) participated in an interview conducted and audio recorded through zoom and received a $20 gift card. Researchers used a semi-structured guide focused on transition from homelessness to RRH, getting and staying housed, mental health and health, unmet needs, and goals. We used an iterative, team-based approach to analyze transcripts, first using open coding to create a codebook, then testing and refining to enhance validity and reliability across coders. Coded passages were independently, then collectively reviewed and discussed to identify themes and subthemes.

Results: Participants were 22-24 years old, 60% had children, 100% were African-American, and 40% identified as male. The majority (80%) were not from the study city originally. Themes included homelessness story, getting housed, needed supports, and service needs beyond housing. Youth had often spent long periods on the street prior to housing and underlying causes for homelessness related to disrupted family and peer supports. Respondents generally expressed feeling relief when moving into an apartment due to safety, control of their own environment, and quiet. Some expressed anxiousness about responding to RRH program demands to get employment and contribute to rent. Some circumstances were noted to require special support including parenting, domestic violence and criminal history. Covid-19 emerged across themes and shaped aspects of getting into housing while loosening program timelines on contributing to rent. Mental health and employment supports were identified as primary needs but were not consistently addressed through RRH supports.

Conclusion: Findings highlight benefits of providing housing for young adults and improvements in their wellbeing that came with stable housing. YA housed through RRH had complex/specific needs that were not consistently addressed by a case manager whose main focus was housing support. RRH was noted to be a beneficial intervention but could be enhanced with structured models of case management such as Critical Time Intervention (Herman et al, 2007) paired with mental health and employment supports.