How to Start a Transitional Housing Program

by Allison Dodge
Large homeless shelter for transitional families

Transitional housing programs play an important part in many communities as they aid people struggling to get back on their feet. Longer term than emergency shelters, some serve homeless populations while others help runaway teens or serve as halfway houses for recently released prisoners or those recovering from chemical dependency. Participants in transitional housing programs are given a place to reside while they find a job and develop the life skills required to live independently. You can help people in your community make the transition to living on their own by learning how to start a transitional housing program.

Determine the target population. Learn what needs exist in your community. Find populations that are underserved, and select a specific one in need of transitional housing. Choose homeless people, at-risk youth, families, victims of domestic violence, recently released prisoners and other people in need of short-term housing as they get their lives back on track.

Acquire funding. Search for private foundations and government departments that provide grants to start and maintain a transitional housing program. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice offers grant funding to transitional housing programs that serve battered women. Hold fund-raisers and seek out private donations from individuals, companies and charitable foundations.

Obtain community support. Talk with residents and business owners in the community where the transitional housing program is located. Encourage their support by promoting the benefits the program offers the community such as decreased crime or a smaller homeless population. Seek out funds and in-kind donations from residents while networking with companies and businesses to provide jobs for program participants.

Find a facility. Look for a building that provides individual space as well as community gathering areas. Check with zoning authorities on the ordinances regarding using the facility for the type of transitional housing you have in mind. Determine how many people the program will sponsor at one time, and find a house or building large enough to accommodate the maximum. Ask individuals and businesses who own an unused property to donate or lease it for a reduced rate.

Purchase supplies. Outfit the building with the furniture and appliances clients need to live there such as a stove, refrigerator, beds, couches and tables. Buy food, cleaning materials and other disposable supplies as needed. Require program participants to do part of the shopping, cooking and cleaning as this teaches life skills and personal responsibility.

Establish guidelines. Set rules and procedures the transitional population must adhere to if they want to remain part of the program. Explain to them the expectations and rules of the program at the beginning. Have consequences for disruptive behavior as well as a method for removing a person from the program.

Create a self-sufficiency plan. Work with each participant to create a personalized plan that allows them to be self-sufficient. Identify his strengths and weaknesses in regards to independent living. List each skill he needs to acquire before he is able to live on his own. Develop a plan to learn each skill, and assign a timeline to ensure the person continues to make progress.

Teach life skills. Instruct participants in the program on how to take care of themselves and their living spaces. Educate them on cleaning, cooking, shopping and other tasks they must master to be independent and live on their own.

Provide additional services. Arrange for program participants to receive counseling services if needed. Assist them in finding a job, and teach them the skills needed to keep a job. Connect them with local housing organizations to assist them in finding an independent place to live once they are ready to leave the program.

About the Author

Allison Dodge has been a writer since 2005, specializing in education, careers, health and travel. She has worked at educational institutions for more than 10 years. Dodge has a master's degree in education administration.

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