Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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Housing and Homelessness

Stable housing is critical to family well-being and can function as a financial asset that can be leveraged to create opportunities for upward mobility. IASP research on housing examines issues related to housing from multiple lenses, focusing on its importance as a basic need as well as its role in creating wealth and promoting upward mobility. Partnering with private foundations and government agencies, IASP is engaged in multiple housing-related research projects, which work to inform strategies for addressing housing insecurity, homelessness, and wealth-building opportunities for low-income families. These projects include evaluations of Secure Jobs, a workforce development initiative for homeless families, the Compass Financial Stability and Savings Program, a variation of HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program, and Massachusetts Short-Term Rental Vouchers pilot, which provided two years of rental support for homeless families  In addition, IASP staff research on housing and homeless has been featured in presentations and publications

Secure Jobs Evaluation

IASP is conducting a multi-year evaluation of the Secure Jobs Initiative, in partnership with the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation.  Secure Jobs is a new service model for homeless families that integrates employment and housing services to provide holistic support to families in crisis.  Initially launched in three cities in Massachusetts in February, 2013, Secure Jobs is now operating in seven regions in the state.  IASP's mixed-method evaluation tracks program implementation at all Secure Jobs sites, and short-term participant outcomes.  IASP has released two reports and the first in a series of five research and policy briefs on Secure Jobs.

Secure Jobs, Secure Homes Secure Families: Process Evaluation of the Massachusetts Secure Jobs Pilot

Secure Jobs first report coverThe first report in the series describes the program model and documents the Phase One implementation process. Secure Jobs set the ambitious goal of serving over 500 HomeBASE families in Massachusetts with 80% employed and 80% of them remaining employed one year after.  Secure Jobs' two hallmarks, collaboration and flexibility, contribute to its success, encouraging the development of partnerships between housing and employment service providers, area employers and use of community resources such as career centers.    

Secure Jobs, Secure Homes, Secure Families: Summary Report of Massachusetts’ Secure Jobs Initiative Phase One

SJ Report 2This second report in the series summarizes short-term employment and housing outcomes for Secure Jobs Phase One participants as well as participant, employer, trainer, and staff assessments of this new initiative.  Resembling the typical homeless family, albeit slightly more educated, Secure Jobs families who entered new employment through Secure Jobs did not see significant increases in their wages over previous employment but an increase in working hours. Flexible funds and program partnerships with employers proved key to program success.

Secure Jobs for Homeless Families: Expanding an Integrated Service Model

SJ Report 3This research and policy brief introduces the second phase of Secure Jobs.  In 2014, Massachusetts' Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) took over administration of Secure Jobs, with continued support from the Fireman Foundation.  DHCD expanded eligibility to homeless families receiving other types of support and two additional Secure Jobs sites were added, expanding coverage to most of the state.  Secure Jobs has also received national attention, and is being replicated in Connecticut. 

Job Readiness Training for Homeless Families: Preparing for Work to Achieve Housing Stability

cover of research brief on job readiness trainingThe second research and policy brief in this series focuses on the job Readiness Training component of the Secure Jobs Initiative. Job Readiness Training is a package of services intended to move job seekers quickly into employment by market their existing skills and abilities, and is central to Secure Jobs at all seven sites.  Secure Jobs participants experience Job Readiness Training as supportive and empowering.  Recommendations for best practices include using an evidence-based curriculum and providing wraparound supports such as child care and transportation.

Systems Change in Service Delivery for Homeless Families: Building and Leveraging Networks to Improve Service Provision

cover of research and policy briefThe third topical brief in this series describes Secure Jobs as an application of systems thinking.  Systems thinking suggests that a social problem needs to be viewed holistically in order to understand and address its multiple sources in a coordinated effort with sustained impact.  By forging a strong link between traditionally separated services, Secure Jobs creates the infrastructure to institutionalize service provision through a collaborative network, in which providers of different types of services partner with each other to examine and address clients’ multiple challenges in an integrated package.

Phase One & Two Participation & Employment Outcomes

Secure Jobs Brief 4The fourth research and policy brief in this series compares implementation, participation, and employment outcomes from the first two phases of Secure Jobs.  While Phase One was limited to families in a short-term rental support program, Phase Two expanded to include families in shelters, motels, and other emergency housing programs. Findings point to a) the need for increased planning for recruitment when expanding eligibility; b) the importance of vocational training, which increases employment attainment significantly; and c) the importance of providing employment services in shelters and motels. Contrary to popular expectations, participants living in shelters and motels showed no difference in employment attainment or job quality from those living in rental subsidy programs.

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This report uses data on Secure Jobs participants who entered skills training to explain how Secure Jobs sites use short-term skills training programs for their participants.  Key findings include: Secure Jobs participants who enroll in skills training programs are comparable to those who do not, and they show moderate employment gains, most notably in job retention.  Secure Jobs participants choose training programs in subjects ranging from health care to manufacturing.  About half have chosen training in healthcare-related fields. Participants who enter training in traditionally female-dominated fields, including healthcare, sales and service, are more likely to find employment than those in traditionally male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing.

Father Bill's & MainSpring Shelter Use Assessment

IASP, in partnership with Father Bill's & MainSpring, completed two reports on the characteristics and service needs of homeless shelter users and the successes and limitations of current service delivery approaches in the shelter system. This information will support strategic planning for improved shelter models that include day centers for homeless individuals.  

Shelter Guests’ Characteristics &Service Use, FY2014 -15

Cover of report on shelter guestsThis report details shelter users in 2015. Father Bill's & MainSpring served 1860 individuals over the course of the year. Shelter guests are most commonly between the ages of 35 and 49,although there are more older and younger guests than in the past. They tend to have very low incomes, on average less than a thousand dollars per month. Almost three quarters report a disability. Shelter stay is about 11 days, up from 8 days in 2014. Shelter users face a wide variety of service needs.

Planning for a new Community Center for Homeless Individuals: Stakeholders Reflect on Services and the Need for System Change

Cover of report on planning for a day center for shelter guestsThis report presents staff and guest perspectives on the current shelter model and unmet service needs. As the homeless population has increased, staff and guests report a need for more beds, safe daytime shelter, and a variety of services to support shelter guests with health care and employment in addition to housing. Staff experience shelter as a "dumping ground" where other strapped care systems, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities bring those they cannot accommodate. This report concludes with recommendations for a day center for homeless individuals.

Compass Financial Stability and Savings Evaluation

Aimed at helping low-income families save and build assets, Compass Working Capital’s Financial Stability and Savings Program is an innovative variation on HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. 

Compass Financial Stability and Savings Program Pilot Evaluation

Cover of report on Compass self-sufficiency evaluationIASP’s report analyzes implementation strategies and early outcomes of this pilot program. First-year results demonstrate great promise for future program replication. Effective outreach and marketing have increased participation by almost 200% in Lynn, MA. The Compass program’s financial education and coaching are helping participants develop asset building strategies and encourage employment that has resulted in over one-third of participants beginning to accrue savings in an escrow account in the first six months.  

Compass Financial Stability and Savings Program Pilot Evaluation: Second Year Report

Cover of Compass FSS second reportThe second report in the series on the implementation and early outcomes of the Compass Financial Stability and Savings Program, an innovative variation on HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, demonstrates continued progress. In two years, Compass has increased FSS participation by 275% in the city of Lynn.  At the end of the first year, participants saw an increase in income, decrease in public benefits receipt, and increase in credit score. In addition, participants felt more confident about saving and budgeting, although some participants still experienced anxiety related to finances.

Compass Financial Stability and Savings Program Pilot Evaluation: Final Report

cover of final compass fss reportIASP Research Associate Delia Kimbrel and Policy Director Sandra Venner completed the final report for Compass Working Capital. This three-year evaluation focused on how families use this opportunity to move toward economic stability, positive impacts sustained after program graduation, and the cost-effectiveness of taking the program to scale.  The third year report includes a description of the expansion of the program to families in Cambridge, MA.  Early outcomes in this new region show similar promising results of increased earned income and decreased receipt of public benefits along with increased confidence related to financial matters, but continued stress about making ends meet.  A preliminary analysis of the return on investment demonstrates that these results are achievable with very modest per-participant program annual costs.

Short-Term Rental Vouchers for Homeless Families

cover of report on rapid rehousingThis research study brief evaluates the implementation and early outcomes of a pilot rapid re-housing program for homeless families in one region of Massachusetts. While the program offers many benefits over living in a shelter, key findings detail the economic challenges families face and their anxiety about the short- term nature of the rental subsidies.  Recommendations include offering more intensive employment-related support services to families while in housing,as well as employment supports such as affordable child care and transportation, and increasing the stock of affordable housing in the area.


Research on housing and homelessness has been featured in peer-reviewed journals.

evaluation and program planning journal coverIASP Research Director Tatjana and Research Assistant Sara Chaganti's evaluation of a housing intervention to address family homelessness, "Home For Now: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of a Short-Term Housing Support Program for Homeless Families" is published in Evaluation and Program Planning.  This mixed-methods case study shows that short-term housing subsidies promote family well-being more than do congregate family shelters, but the lack of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage continue to challenge families in their path toward self-sufficiency (May, 2015)

cover of cityscape journalIASP Research Director Tatjana Meschede's in-depth study on chronically homeless street dwellers and their service providers, "From Street Life to Housing: Consumer and Provider Perspectives on Service Delivery and Access to Housing," is published in Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. This research details achievements and failures of services that attempt to reach those most likely left out of the homeless-services delivery model- the chronically homeless street population. Results underscore important differences between service providers and homeless street dwellers in their perceptions and theories of homelessness, service needs of street dwellers, and service provision (January, 2011).

journal of human behavior coverIASP Research Director, Tatjana Meschede's dissertation research is published in the Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment. In the article, "Accessing Housing: Exploring the Impact of Medical and Substance Abuse Services on Housing Attainment for Chronically Homeless Street Dwellers", Dr. Meschede details the service use of a group of homeless street dwellers in Boston over a three year period and analyzes the impact of these services on housing outcomes. Supported by the MA Department of Public Health and HUD, this research creates a unique database that points to a number of critical factors increasing the odds of leaving the streets (March, 2010).

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