Innovation in the Spotlight:
The Four City Tenancy Preservation Program
The Metro Boston Network to End Homelessness is involved in the implementation of several interventions to end or prevent homelessness. One intervention showing promise in helping disabled tenants avoid eviction is the Tenancy Preservation Program in the Metro Boston area. Prior to the creation of the network, the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) existed only in Housing Courts, but with funding from the network it has been expanded to the Malden and Somerville District Courts. Now known as the Four City Tenancy Preservation Program, the project is a collaboration between The Tri-City Community Action Program of Malden and Eliot Community Human Services of Lexington. The project assists households in Malden, Medford, Melrose, and Everett and receives support from other sources, such as HPRP and CSBG, in addition to network funding.
TPP is an evidenced-based statewide initiative that utilizes the support of clinical resources for individuals and families at risk of eviction because of a physical or mental disability that is material to a lease violation. The eligibility criteria for TPP services in general is not income based but rather targeted towards individuals and families who are at risk of eviction because of a challenge related to a mental or physical disability. While many of the clients served by TPP are in subsidized housing, income standards are not generally not required to receive services.(It should be noted that the funding sources for the Four City TPP each have income guidelines to receive services). The concept is based on the rule of Reasonable Accommodation which limits the program to working with people or families with a “disability” that can include a mental or physical impairment for any member of the household that is material to the lease violation. The program offers clinical consultation to the court to evaluate the nature of the contributing problem. Clinicians, i.e., professional Social Workers, are called in to evaluate the issue(s), work with the tenants to get the appropriate services, and hopefully resolve the problem and report progress back to the court. Under the network funded TPP, the eligibility criteria is more narrow and focuses on families in subsidized housing who meet the disability criteria and the income eligibility criteria for local HPRP and network funds which are used to stabilize their tenancies.
The Four City TPP utilizes a licensed clinician from Eliot Community Human Services and a legal services team from Tri-City Community Action Program to asses for mental health and physical disabilities in families who are at risk of eviction. This combination of legal and clinical resources gives families at-risk of eviction the support to negotiate an agreement with the landlord, pay off arrears, and get the ongoing services they need to stay stably housed.
TPPs which exist in all of Massachusetts’ Housing Courts are funded with a combination of state funding (TPP line item), the federal Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) program, and by the Mass Housing and Finance Agency, and private funds. The Four City TPP is unique in that it has access to the network’s flexible funds, Tri-Cap’s HPRP and the City of Malden’s HPRP funds, and CSBG funding for the City of Everett. Additionally this is the first time TPP is being implemented the in District Court in addition to the local Housing Courts.
Last year the state wide group that oversees TPP in the Commonwealth’s Housing Courts commissioned The Donahue Institute from University of Massachusetts Boston to do a study of the six projects and the outcomes of their interventions. Over 600 cases were part of the study state-wide including 486 closed TPP cases during FY 2009. The results of the study demonstrated that 72.2% of the cases resulted in preserving the clients current tenancy and 9.8% of the cases moved to other housing which included living with family or friends or placement in a more appropriates setting, such as an institutional setting. The overall housing retention rate for TPP cases was 82%. While the majority of TPP cases represent single adults, families are also served when there is a disability present in the household. Data has shown that only 10.9% of closed TPP cases resulted in eviction or termination from TPP.
Below is a case study of a family who was served by the Metro Boston Network’s Four City TPP.
Maria is a twenty-two year old single mother who presented to Tri-CAP’s legal service clinic following the receipt of a Notice to Quit for non-payment of rent. Maria holds a Section 8 voucher and was at great risk of losing her subsidy if she could not pay her rental arrearage of $480. TPP Staff accepted Maria as a client as she has a significant learning disability which prevented her from staying in her GED program. As a result, Maria was sanctioned by TAFDC and lost all monetary benefits. The housing authority who managed her voucher could not adjust her rent due to the sanction. Maria and her three-year-old daughter were previously homeless, and presented to Tri-CAP at risk of becoming homeless once more.
TPP was able to pay Maria’s arrearage by utilizing the Metro Boston Network Flexible Funds, as well as provide a two-month stipend. TPP clinician and legal services attorney worked collaboratively to guide Maria in curing her TAFDC sanction. Maria is currently completing her two week volunteering requirement, and TPP Staff will work with the housing authority following completion to adjust her rent accordingly. TPP was also able to refer Maria to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) for job training and placement. Maria also readily accepted a referral to a local mental health agency in order to receive supportive therapy while in the midst of these transitions. She remains stably housed, and is no longer at risk of eviction.
For more information on the Metro Boston Network’s TPP please contact Larry Gottlieb at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from this article was provided via interview with Larry Gottlieb from Eliot Community Human Services and who is on the Metro Boston Network’s Leadership Council.