How to Start a Transitional Housing Program

by Allison Dodge ; Updated April 09, 2018
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 and serve as halfway houses for recently released prisoners as well as 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

To get started, spend time learning 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 fundraisers and seek out private donations from individuals, companies and charitable foundations. Sometimes you can obtain a grant that helps fund the building or renovation of a facility for a transitional living program. The VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program is one example of a program that offers such grants.

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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

Once you've learned as much as you can about the community, you'll need to find the ideal location for your housing program. 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. 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

To get the most out of the program, participants need to be equipped with basic living 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. 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. Consider offering services for a set period of time after the participant has moved to a permanent location to prevent some from returning to the transitional housing program or their initial situation such as prison or being homeless.

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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