Officially launched in March 2021, the Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) in Broome County is a CCSI program that assists households experiencing homelessness that are disproportionately affected by limited housing opportunity. Participants are provided with housing search assistance to reduce barriers to affordable housing access, rental assistance to support stabilization, and supportive services to promote long-term housing retention.
RAP was designed by Broome County's Anti-Displacement Learning Network team in 2020 and is funded by Enterprise Community Partners. The initial focus of the Network was on reducing and preventing displacement. However, as the impact of COVID-19 on housing retention for extremely low-income residents became clear – in particular the overrepresentation of people of color among those hardest hit by the pandemic and those seeking homeless services – team members incorporated best practices from the collaboratively developed Framework on an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response to ensure RAP’s effective implementation. Broome County's Coordinated Entry System processed 2,603 unduplicated calls from individuals in need of homeless services in 2020, 30% of whom were Black (five times their representation in the general population – compared to 63% white, an under-representation) and 11% of whom were Hispanic (almost triple their representation in the general population).
The local availability of affordable housing is the strongest predictor for whether households can exit homelessness. In New York State, Broome County has the second lowest availability rate of rental homes that are deeply affordable – just 20 affordable units are available for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. In 2019, 2,079 individuals and 255 families with children accessed emergency shelter in Broome County, a 47% increase over 2018. While state and federal eviction moratoria served to reduce the number of residents who experienced homelessness during the past year, more than 1,700 households still found themselves needing to access shelter.
To address this housing challenge, RAP employs a Housing Specialist who conducts housing search and landlord engagement activities to identify available affordable rental units on behalf of program participants. Once identified, RAP staff assists participants in obtaining and completing any necessary documentation to secure housing, including payment of the security deposit and/or first month’s rent as needed. On-going case management support is then provided to assist participants in establishing and maintaining their housing.
Applicants are comprehensively assessed based on factors known to contribute to housing disparity. RAP targets specific census tracts based on the level of need as identified by the Urban Institute's Emergency Rental Assistance Priority Index, which measures the prevalence of low-income renters who are at risk of experiencing housing instability and homelessness by examining neighborhood conditions and demographics. It incorporates instability risk factors present prior to the pandemic, as well as the economic impacts of the pandemic, particularly for groups that have been historically and systematically excluded from housing and economic opportunities and face greater health and economic impacts from COVID-19.