Move people into housing

Step 4: Match people to housing & services

This is where the rubber meets the road! Hopefully, the process of identifying, by name and photograph, the most vulnerable homeless individuals in your community and lining up housing and service resources has resulted in the ultimate outcome – housing units and coordinated social services delivery methods to ensure stability in housing over time. This is hard, and coordinating resources requires a whole community approach – which makes it all the more important to match people to the housing, neighborhood, service models, and rental supports that are best targeted to their needs. Do you have a homeless senior citizen ranked as vulnerable in your registry? If you have inventoried affordable senior housing as part of your local abundance, this might be the most appropriate housing intervention for that person. Similarly, there are unique housing and service programs for low-income persons living with HIV / AIDS that you may have identified as part of the process to line up supply. Being homeless doesn’t disqualify someone as eligible for this resource!  One of the most important issues to keep in mind is tenant choice.  The apartment and neighborhood chosen by the tenant is most likely to be sustainable.

The key to “moving people into housing” is supporting the teams that will maneuver the various systems to process housing applications for individuals, obtain approvals such as apartment approval for Section 8 vouchers, negotiate with landlords, understand the qualifying nature of the housing and service resources that, and have the skills necessary to match the most appropriate housing to the needs of the most vulnerable individuals and families that are part of your registry.

The challenge:

  • It can take as long as 9 months to process a housing application in some communities.
  • Onerous paperwork requirements, inspection and approval processes to establish eligibility for housing create significant delays.
  • It can take as long as 9 months to certify an apartment as eligible for Section 8, which is a key housing tool in many communities.
  • Multiple agencies – government, non-profit, and private, need to work together to synchronize the processing of peoples’ housing application and apartments’ Section 8 certification.
  • Lack of research on what type of housing (congregate versus scatter-site) and what intensity of services are best suited to people in different circumstances.
  • It is difficult to know and remember all the eligibility requirements and qualifying factors for each program, rental subsidy, and service system that might be available to you.

The solution: 

  • Eliminate all but the most essential elements of the housing application.  We’d love to see a community get this down to requiring a birth certificate only!
  • Consolidate tasks for processing housing applications, including Section 8 applications, into a single management tool like the one the District of Columbia uses.  

      o    Pre-screen all applications before they are submitted to the Housing Authority to avoid unnecessary delays
      o    Track applications and apartment inspections in an inter-agency database with transparency.  

  • Standardize housing applications for the Outreach and Housing Placement Teams to satisfy the program requirements and paperwork necessary to move people into housing as quickly as possible.  

What you need to do:

  • Attend quarterly cohort calls on Moving People into Housing.
  • Adapt Washington, DC’s Housing Database to your community and start using it (DC has agreed to share the blueprint for the database with 100,000 Homes Campaign Communities).
  • Assign a point of contact with responsibility to navigate housing placements for people on the registry on an ongoing basis.
  • Complete and publish the Supply/Demand worksheet that summarizes housing options and requirements into one document.
  • Market to landlords who might be willing to house tenants in a scatter-site model.


  • District of Columbia’s Housing Database – see link to a recording of DC explaining the database on an innovations call and a powerpoint explaining DC's housing database
  • Supply/Demand worksheet
  • Landlord letter to recruit landlords into providing apartments for scatter-site tenants

Promising practices:  

  • The District of Columbia has created an inter-agency database that synchronizes the efforts of multiple agencies working on processing individual housing applications and Section 8 subsidies for landlords.  They’ve reduced the median processing time from 9 months to 45 days.  
  • The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) processed Shelter + Care applications for the most vulnerable people on Skid Row in a median of 12 days by assigning a single point of contact to Project 50 and collaborating closely with the county Department of Public Social Services.  
  • Denver’s Road Home employs a liaison to the Denver Housing Authority who expedites applications and advocates for the most chronic and vulnerable homeless.
  • Nashville housed vulnerable people very quickly following a flood of the Harpeth River near a large homeless encampment.  “Natural disaster, Preference 1” creates a different set of parameters for housing authorities to process vouchers.  Because they had already completed a registry of the chronic and vulnerable homeless, they were able to negotiate for rapid housing placement of ALL chronic and vulnerable homeless, not just those immediately affected by the flood. 

Key lessons: 

  • While it is important to try to match the most appropriate housing type to the level of need and disability of those on local registries, the most important thing is to get people into housing with supportive services as quickly as possible.  
  • While communities have found ways to house vulnerable homeless individuals without Section 8, it is a key tool, and there are many moving parts for getting people into apartments approved for Section 8 certificates.  The DC Housing Database is the first in the country that enables coordination across multiple government agencies AND local non-profit organizations.  They have generously made the template of this available for free to any community participating in the campaign.  We cannot emphasize enough how helpful this might be in reducing your processing time.  
  • By embedding this new process in the system, you can make the new process “business as usual” and use the process as your friend.