It’s a flip on an old formula that’s intended to help the homeless.

Instead of relegating families to a public shelter and then offering them services in order for them to eventually gain employment and stable housing, the housing comes first.

That’s the concept behind Rapid Re-housing. Advocates move families from shelters into housing as soon as possible, even paying the first two or three months’ rent.

Follow-up assistance comes by way of healthcare services, money management and employment opportunities.

“What we know is that housing works,” said Amy Schwabenlender, vice president of community impact at Valley of the Sun United Way. “It provides stability. In the long-term, what we’re seeing is that people aren’t losing their apartment or returning to homelessness. Rapid Re-Housing is making a difference.”

The Valley of the Sun United Way has spent the last two years implementing the new intervention strategy. It brings together the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County, the Arizona Department of Housing and Arizona Department of Economic Security.

The agencies are working closer together than ever before toward the goal of ending homelessness.

They have directed $4.5 million of new money to put people in rental housing over the past 18 months. Advocates say the investment up-front is paying off over the long term.

“We’ve put 500 people into housing,” said Bruce Liggett, Maricopa County Human Services director. “By pooling our resources, simplifying our plans, contracting with nonprofits, we have seen a lot of successes.”

You can find more information on Rapid Re-Housing at this link.