“It takes too long to move from shelter to stable housing.”

That’s the feedback Interfaith Action’s Project Home staff continually receive. Families report that they struggle to get necessary documents, to find affordable places to rent once placed in a scattered site program, and to track down their assessment caseworkers for assistance.

To address this situation, Project Home is hiring a rapid exit caseworker to reduce length of stay in a shelter and prevent renewed homelessness. Research has shown that this is an effective and efficient approach that improves outcomes for those using shelter services. In Hennepin County, this approach cut the average shelter stay in half, from 60 to 30 days.

Here’s how it works: The rapid exit caseworker receives the screening information from Ramsey County and, together with the family, develops a housing stabilization action plan that looks at all aspects of the family’s needs. The caseworker focuses primarily on the housing portion of the plan and uses community resources to address the family’s other needs. The caseworker helps the family gather necessary documents required for most housing programs and then works alongside them to locate and apply for affordable housing opportunities. The caseworker continues to provide case management for a period of six months after the family has moved into housing to support stabilization.

“Many of the families we serve struggle with the stress and trauma of homelessness, including sleep deprivation, which greatly reduces their ability to properly focus on their housing journey,” says Sara Liegl, director of Project Home. “We believe, by surrounding each family with the right supports, including this new rapid exit caseworker position, that we can end a family’s homelessness with a single stay in Project Home.”

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