Increasing Housing Retention

The City of San Jose had a problem. San Jose had contracted with an organization that was to offer housing and services to 55 formerly homeless individuals with mental health disabilities.  In May 2012, however, that provider had informed city staff that it was not able to continue managing rental subsidies for those individuals. With just 19% of participants housed through the program managing to keep their housing over time, the provider lacked the capacity to support these vulnerable individuals in transitioning from homelessness to housing. 

The City was concerned about the 55 individuals who, without access to housing services, would have no alternative but to return to homelessness. Moreover, the City had secured a funding source to provide these supportive housing slots, and was ready to expand this program to serve another 55 vulnerable people. It feared that losing capacity to administer this program by falling far short of its goals for housing placement and retention would impact future political goodwill.

City staff first reviewed the City’s own internal capacity to provide rental assistance, to see if they could complete the housing placement process in-house. However, staff determined that, given their limited experience in managing a rental assistance program, it would be far more cost-effective to partner with an organization that specialized in providing such assistance.

The City was aware that Abode Services was already working with Santa Clara County as a rental assistance administrator, a role we had secured through a competitive RFP process. The City approached Abode Services and asked if we were interested in taking over their contract and administering rental assistance.

With almost 15 years’ experience of providing rental assistance and extensive knowledge of the nuance of subsidy administration, Abode Services was able to quickly assume operation of the program. In less than two months, the program was transitioned to Abode Services, with clear and direct communications with all of the residents, community stakeholders and landlords, and the other non-profit partners involved.

After Abode Services began rental assistance administration for San Jose HOME, housing retention among participants improved dramatically, going from 19% to 83% in just over a year.

The success of the program helped the City to expand its efforts to reduce homelessness, building new capacity to target individuals with significant housing barriers, including people struggling with substance abuse and individuals coming out of homeless encampments. 

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