Help people stay housed

Step 5: Help people stay housed

Ensuring that housed individuals are able to maintain housing in the long term is absolutely critical to success in each community. After housing placement is when the real work begins! It is important that housing providers have strong partnerships with expert service teams that are equally focused on housing retention as a clinical outcome for the tenant. The foundation for achieving strong housing retention goals is laid during the first outreach contacts, through conversations about housing preference, during intake, and on the day the person moves into housing. Clear expectations for the tenant with clear roles and responsibilities between the housing providers and the services team are essential. In programs that have housed the most vulnerable across the country one year housing retention rates range from 88% to 93%, with an average of 91%.

The challenge:

  • Some housing providers have punitive procedures that result in the eviction of vulnerable homeless people back to the streets.
  • Some communities do not have adequate capacity to provide services that keep people in housing.  
  • Policies and practices in housing agencies may need to be altered to support high housing retention rates.

The solution:

  • One year housing retention rates range from 85% to 93% with an average of 91% among a sample of communities that have housed the most long-term and vulnerable homeless.
  • Offer more intensive and proactive services up front – plan for an in-person visit or telephonic check-in each week for the first three to six months of tenancy.
  • Initially, a 1:10 case management ratio is optimal, though many communities are succeeding with less.

What you can do:  

  • Attend the Quarterly Cohort WebEx on Housing Retention featuring Linda Kaufman, Andrea White, Suzanne Wagner, and Molly Lowery.
  • To the extent possible, honor tenant preferences throughout the housing process.
  • Build strong relationships between the landlord, tenants and the service providers, with clear roles and responsibilities for each.

    What to do with landlords:
        o    Ensure that leases are consistent with community standards and fair to tenants.
        o    See landlords as an "early warning system" to flag issues and concerns with tenants well before they might lead to eviction.

    What to do with tenants:
        o    Review the lease in full with the tenant.
        o    Know local landlord/tenant law and use this to work with tenants to assume the full rights and responsibilities of tenancy.
        o    Connect tenants with mainstream community resources and supports using the Care coordination worksheet.
        o    Help tenants access and increase their income.
        o    Look at each tenant’s long term goals and consider life after services.

    What service providers should do:
        o    Tap into skilled providers equipped with motivational interviewing techniques and proactive responses.
        o    Practice crisis prevention and planning  instead of a reactive approach.
        o    Consider CTI and Family CTI as Evidence Based Models for service delivery.
        o    Help tenants to see themselves as building assets in their housing (e.g. rental history) that broaden their choices for future housing and long term goals.
        o    Identify outcomes and track data: use data systems to flag problems, track performance, and plan for improvement.


  • Care Coordination Worksheet from Common Ground
  • The Outcomes Star is an approach to measuring change when working with vulnerable people and is an effective way to involve service users in needs assessment, support planning and reviews. More information is available at: Outcomes Star

Promising practices

To be published.

Key lessons

  • Use the lease as a tool to clarify roles and responsibilities of all involved.
  • Collect data to track program outcomes and target interventions.
  • Define roles of landlords, subsidy administrators, property management, supportive services and tenants.
  • Provide more intensive services for the first three to six months after moving into housing; then step down services as tenants increase their skills and resources (CTI).
  • Move from a crisis orientation to a proactive approach.