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Transatlantic Exchange: The Reality of Paying the Bills

Our System Broker Alex is currently in LA as part of Homeless Link's Transatlantic Exchange, and will be working with Brilliant Corners for the next two weeks to learn about Critical Time Intervention (CTI) and how this way of working can benefit multiple complex needs programmes back in the UK. Alex is almost at the end of her trip, and has been meeting with clients to see how they feel benefitted from CTI.

I met a Breaking Barriers client today who was very excited to show me her new apartment.  After moving in only a month ago, I could feel her pride at having her own front door and she was very keen to tell me that she is now taking care of her bills.

The Rapid Rehousing programme has a housing subsidy attached, but clients are expected to make a minimum 30% contribution toward their rent charge, with this contribution increasing throughout the Critical Time Intervention (CTI) phases until the client is paying the full 100% rent at the end of the 24 month programme.

Due to this focus on self-sufficiency, housing support comes with a clear pathway into employment; all of the Breaking Barriers clients I have met are working.   The focus on employment is not only aspirational, but realistic due to a partnership with Chrysalis, an amazing agency focused on employment.  I also love that their website is very similar to my own amazing organisation, Changing Lives!

Most of the clients I have met are working on the Street Maintenance programme – a 12 month employment opportunity brokered through Chrysalis to provide services throughout three different boroughs in Downtown LA.  This employment is not only helping the whole Downtown community to create better environments for residents and tourists, but is providing essential work experience and also a much needed paycheck.

From this morning’s client meeting, I headed south of Downtown to the monthly Design Team meeting with my host Brilliant Corners, Chrysalis, Probation and the Department of Health Services.  This meeting brings all Breaking Barriers partners together to ensure the smooth running of the programme and to highlight any challenges which can be approached and resolved collaboratively.   As part of the agenda, Brilliant Corners provided an update on the clients in the programme and discussed the 14 people who are now coming up to the end of phase three in the CTI model and the end of the 24 month Rapid Re-Housing programme.  The team were keen to hear about the 14 clients coming to the end of the programme and where it would be great to say all are doing great and ready to take over their tenancy and full rent charge, this of course, is not the reality.  Brilliant Corners explained that of the 14 clients there were roughly three groups:

  1. Working full-time and client ready to take over the tenancy/full rent charge
  2. Working but not quite ready to take over the tenancy, but close to
  3. Unable to take over the tenancy

When I first heard this I wondered, ‘are there going to be issues for Brilliant Corners in terms of their successful outcomes?’  Also, ‘what is going to happen to the two groups that can’t take over the tenancy at the 24 month point?’  ‘Will they be evicted?’

The simple answer was no.

There were some inspiring stories about the clients who have transitioned through the programme but also some realistic conversations about the options for others, and none of them ended in eviction!  The Department of Health Services explained that they were considering additional funding options to allow an extension for those people who needed a little more time and also looking at transition to permanent supported housing for those who were unable to live independently.

Again, the message I am left with and that I want to bring back to the UK is that CTI is collaborative and flexible; built to meet the needs of the people it serves.