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The General Accounting Office's 1990 conclusion about the prevention of homelessness still holds: It remains "too early to tell" what works best. Eviction prevention programs show some promise but have not been rigorously evaluated and tend to exclude people at highest risk of homelessness. Several studies suggest that individuals with severe mental illness can be supported in the community, but the mixture of housing and supportive services necessary remains unclear. There is even less evidence for the usefulness of planning discharges from institutions or of programs to ameliorate domestic conflicts. However, even if expanded to reach 100 percent of their target populations and even if 100 percent successful, all of these programs together would reach only a minority of the people who become homeless each year, and targeting efforts would yield many false alarms for each future case of homelessness correctly identified. Based on evidence that subsidized housing, with or without supportive services, is sufficient to end homelessness for most families, and given the important role of subsidized housing (everywhere it has been examined) in ending homelessness among people with serious mental illnesses, we propose a shift to selected strategies of prevention, such as providing housing subsidies to those with worst—case housing needs, supporting employment and transitional assistance to poor, young people setting up households for the first time, and focusing efforts on communities from which large proportions of homeless people originate. (Authors)
Delmar, NY
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services