The name Housing Opportunity and Services Together reflects the combination of supports at the heart of the HOST approach. Housing provides the stability vulnerable families need to pursue opportunity, and services promote stability and mobility from poverty.
HOST families experience many sources of instability, such as the uncertainty and stress of living paycheck to paycheck, relying on unreliable transportation to get to work, or running out of food at the end of the month.
HOST service providers helped improve families’ day-to-day stability. Sometimes, that meant addressing logistical challenges or emergency needs, such as filling out forms for benefits or paying for a car repair, to create the stability needed to pursue long-term goals.
The HOST approach also emphasizes the support of a motivational coach (also known as a case manager) to help families navigate their way through the barriers and siloed social services people in poverty often encounter.
One person can’t do it by themselves, and it won’t happen overnight. They need social support. [My case manager] sticks to his word. I don’t want to disappoint him….He’s like a good coach.
The strongest and most consistent sentiment HOST participants expressed was that having a personal relationship with a case manager who focuses on the residents’ goals rather than program or provider goals was crucial to making progress.
When I need help, they help. They’ve helped with summer jobs, transportation, the little things.
This brief describes the opportunities to use housing as a platform for resident services, the challenges to coordinating services effectively in public and assisted housing, and the strategies and recommendations to ensure that service coordination is evidence based. It primarily highlights insights from the Urban Institute’s Housing Opportunity and Service’s Together (HOST) demonstration established in 2010 to test a whole-family, wraparound model for addressing intergenerational poverty and disadvantage in public and subsidized housing. Adapting lessons from HOST for current service coordination models, even in an environment of scarce resources, creates opportunities for new partners, strategies, and flexibilities.
The Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) Demonstration aims to strengthen public and mixed-income housing communities through intensive services for vulnerable families. Drawing on our survey of HOST participants, this brief illustrates the first two sites, a Chicago public housing development and Portland mixed-income community, and discusses challenges to HOST's community goals. HOST builds on the housing authorities substantial investments in improving the developments and Portlands high collective efficacy. However, residents express concerns about neighborhood resources, perceive major community problems with violence and social disorder, and suffer from poor mental health -factors that could stymie HOST's individual and community objectives.