Case Study of a Program Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness: Solutions for Change

Case Study of a Program Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness: Solutions for Change

Published: Sep 02, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica and MEF Associates
Associated Project

State Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Case Studies

Time frame: 2018-2021

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation


Angela Gaffney

Asaph Glosser

Key Findings
  • Solution’s main approach to serving people with low incomes is to offer full-family transitional housing and supports.
  • This case study focuses on Solution’s 1,000-day program, Solutions University, which includes transitional and permanent housing; intensive case management; unpaid work experience; classes about life skills, parenting, and employment readiness; on-site mental health services; and recovery support services for individuals with substance use disorders.
  • Key program practices include providing housing in conjunction with other services; structuring program phases with progressively relaxed rules and increasingly independent housing; and promoting participant accountability through program rules and daily schedules, frequent contact with case managers, and a zero-tolerance substance use policy.

This case study describes Solutions for Change (Solutions), a nonprofit organization serving San Diego County families experiencing homelessness. Solutions provides housing, work readiness training, and support services for resident-participants, the majority of whom enter the program in recovery from substance use disorders. Participants progress through Solutions’ three-phase, 1,000-day program, which was known as Solutions University. (The name has recently changed to Solutions Academy.) This sequence includes dedicated case management; on-site mental health services; 12-step support groups, unpaid work experience; and a series of life skills, parenting, and employment readiness training (ERT) classes. The highly structured program supplies participants with daily schedules that map out the steps they must complete to progress through program phases.

This case study is part of the State TANF Case Studies project, which is designed to expand the knowledge base on innovative approaches to help people with low incomes, including TANF recipients, prepare for and engage in work and increase their overall stability. Mathematica and its subcontractor, MEF Associates, were contracted by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to develop descriptive case studies of nine innovative state and local programs. The programs were chosen through a scan of the field and discussions with stakeholders. TANF practitioners and staff of other programs can learn about innovative practices through the case studies. The studies also can expand policymakers’ and researchers’ understanding of programs that support people’s success in work and highlight innovative practices to explore in future research.

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