Disrupting the Cycle of Homelessness

Metis helps a 125-year-old New York City settlement house determine if aftercare services like financial and job counseling keep previously homeless families from becoming displaced again.

Childcare offered during a Henry Street Settlement homelessness/domestic violence prevention event. Photo Courtesy of Henry Street Settlement.

Henry Street Settlement, a New York City-based multi-service settlement house that celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018, manages several family homeless shelters. Through the provision of supplemental programming to residents of their three shelters, Henry Street is aiming to break the cycle of shelter recidivism. Henry Street has been exploring how best to support shelter residents during and after their housing stay so that a single residency permanently prevents a family from becoming homeless again.

An Innovative Model of Aftercare

Henry Street’s aftercare model offers residents a variety of services above and beyond the provision of shelter to ensure that residents can attain long-term housing stability upon exit. Henry Street’s aftercare program utilizes a case-management approach and includes the following three core services:

  • Housing readiness and placement provided to shelter residents
  • Employment and financial counseling provided to shelter residents
  • Post-shelter services focused on employee retention, education, and career advancement

The long-term outcome for program participants is ongoing housing stability, sustained, in part, by adequate and stable employment. Henry Street also identified an ambitious goal of reducing recidivism rates in shelters across New York City. They sought to accomplish this goal by becoming a systems change agent in homelessness policy.

Strengthening the Aftercare Program Model

Metis Associates was engaged to assist Henry Street with clarifying and strengthening its program model and data collection efforts to support the short- and longer-term goals of the Shelter Aftercare Program. Metis provided the following consulting and technical services:

  • Developed a comprehensive programmatic logic model for Henry Street’s aftercare services
  • Established a baseline profile of shelter residents with the inclusion of preliminary housing and employment outcomes
  • Conducted a review of data collection instruments and procedures
  • Led three focus groups with current and former Henry Street shelter residents to gain insight into the use of aftercare services as well as shelter recidivism
  • Provided recommendations for readying Henry Street’s data collection for further evaluation studies and internal program improvement

We found that nearly half of the residents in the Henry Street Urban Family Center had at least one prior stay at a New York City homeless shelter. We also found that some had been homeless up to five times—including as children. Henry Street’s Shelter Aftercare Program has kept 99 percent (103 out of 104) of its formerly homeless clients in permanent housing for three years—a significant increase over citywide averages.  For some formerly homeless individuals and families, remaining securely in their new homes can be a persistent challenge. Henry Street participants identified “aftercare” as a crucial ingredient in their journey out of homelessness.