Beyond Shelter is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 in response to increasing numbers of homeless families in Los Angeles and the need for a more comprehensive approach to serving them. Today, the mission of the agency is to develop systemic approaches to combat poverty and homelessness among families with children, and to enhance family economic security and well-being.
PROMOTING SYSTEMIC CHANGE
In 1988, Beyond Shelter introduced an innovation in the field at the time - "Housing First" for homeless families (also known as "rapid rehousing"), which has since helped to transform both public policy and practice on a national scale. Through this new approach, rather than remain in shelters and transitional housing for months and sometimes years at a time, homeless families are assisted in (1) moving back into permanent housing as quickly as possible, and (2) then provided six months to one full year of individualized case management support to help them rebuild their lives (including jobs, childcare, and assistance in attaining improved social and economic well-being).
The methodology is based largely on the belief that vulnerable and at-risk homeless families are more responsive to interventions and social services support after they are in their own housing rather than still living in emergency shelters or transitional housing. It is also premised on the belief that housing is a basic human right. Over the past twenty years, more than 4,300 homeless families have participated successfully in the program in Los Angeles.
Beyond Shelter's "Housing First" Program has received both national and international recognition, including one of "25 U.S. Best Practices" presented at the 1996 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat II, held in Istanbul, Turkey; one of "100 International Best Practices" chosen by the United Nations on Human Settlements for dissemination worldwide that same year; and one of 19 model programs in the Pew Partnership's national initiative, Wanted: Solutions for America, a systematic evaluation effort to document and disseminate successful strategies to building stronger communities, coordinated by Rutgers University's Center for Urban Policy Research in 2001.