Integrating Financial Empowerment Strategies into Housing and Homelessness Prevention Programs

While homelessness has been a “persistent and enduring feature in American history,”1 the recent economic downturn is producing a new face of those at risk of homelessness and a growing sense of vulnerability among many Americans. As the Executive Director of the Chatham-Savannah Homeless Authority, Mark Baggett, puts it, “While homeless services a few years ago were more focused on the guys under the bridge, most of the people coming to us now are working families who played by the rules but are facing the prospect of falling into homelessness.”2 These families may only be a few paychecks away from being homeless, lacking the financial cushion to sustain themselves in the event of a job loss or unexpected medical bill.

Recognizing the need to address the increasing vulnerability of families and individuals in their communities, several local governments and nonprofit organizations across the country are implementing innovative financial security and asset-building strategies that seek to expand the financial cushion for their residents and clients. These strategies are those that help individuals and families better manage their finances, maximize their income and build a safety net. They include debt counseling and credit repair, financial education, access to low-cost checking and savings accounts, and free tax preparation assistance.

As the face of those at risk of homelessness changes, so too must the response. This Guide explores the options that exist for these responses, and how financial empowerment strategies can be incorporated to the broad slate of programs offered by housing programs and homelessness prevention programs.
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