Best Practices & Models

THHI is committed to helping the community implement and utilize proven, effective and efficient best practices with a focus on permanent housing as the means to end homelessness in Hillsborough County.

Best practices are models of care that have been successfully utilized in other communities as proven by positive outcomes of moving homeless individuals and families from homelessness to permanent housing.

On this page you will find information about the best practices currently being implemented in the Tampa-Hillsborough County community along with links to resources to learn more about each practice/model.

Housing First
Rapid Rehousing
Coordinated Intake and Assessment
Prevention and Diversion
Trauma Informed Care
Motivational Interview

Housing First

According to the founder of the Housing First approach (Sam Tsmbersis, Pathways to Housing), the model is simple:  provide housing first and then combine that housing with supportive services.  The National Alliance to End Homeless furthers explains that “This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve.”

Housing First programs share critical elements, as outlined by the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

  • There is a focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain rental housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited;
  • A variety of services are delivered primarily following a housing placement to promote housing stability and individual well-being;
  • Such services are time-limited or long-term depending upon individual need; and
  • Housing is not contingent on compliance with services – instead, participants must comply with a standard lease agreement and are provided with the services and supports that are necessary to help them do so successfully.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness states that “Research has demonstrated that this model is effective for persons that have long histories of homelessness, with the most complex service needs – such as persons with mental illness. Studies show that for even those considered the hardest to serve over 80 percent were in housing a year after entry under the Housing First model.”

Ann Marie Oliva, the director of HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Program which oversees HUD’s funding for homelessness, has advised that “communities should be moving away from a “first come, first served” approach to housing, towards a proactive approach to outreach that identifies, engages, and connects homeless persons with the highest level of need—including individuals and families who are chronically homeless—with permanent supportive housing. Housing First is a paradigm shift away from a traditional housing ready approach.” (emphasis added)

Below is a list of resources and information about the Housing First approach from nationally recognized experts:

National Alliance to End Homelessness:  Solutions – Housing First

National Alliance to End Homelessness:  What is Housing First?

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH):  Solutions Database – Housing First

Pathways to Housing (the founder of Housing First)

HUD’s office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) Weekly Focus: Adopting a Housing First Approach

Rapid Rehousing

The National Alliance to End Homelessness describes rapid rehousing as “an intervention designed to help individuals and families to quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing.” A key element of rapid re-housing is the “Housing First” philosophy, which offers housing without preconditions such as employment, income, lack of a criminal background, or sobriety. If issues such as these need to be addressed, the household can address them most effectively once they are in housing.  The resources and services provided are typically tailored to the unique needs of the household.

Services to support rapid rehousing, as outlined in the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USIHC) brief, include:

  • housing search and landlord negotiation,
  • short-term financial and rental assistance, and
  • the delivery of home-based housing stabilization services, as needed.

The USICH has determined that research shows rapid rehousing has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing homelessness, particularly among families. Rapid rehousing also increases turnover in shelters, which allows them to accommodate more families without increasing capacity.

The Rapid ReHousing (RRH) approach has been endorsed by HUD, the USICH, and the federal government through the Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009, and ensuing regulations for the Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) programs.

Below is a list of resources and information about the Rapid Rehousing approach from nationally recognized experts:

National Alliance to End Homelessness:  Solutions – Rapid Rehousing

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH):  Solutions Database – Rapid Rehousing 

“Making Rapid Rehousing Work” a case study by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness 

HUD’s office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) Weekly Focus: Rapid ReHousing

Coordinated Intake and Assessment (CI&A)

HUD describes coordinated intake and assessment as a “powerful tool designed to ensure that homeless persons/families are matched with the right intervention, among all of the interventions available in the community’s continuum of care (CoC), as quickly as possible. It standardizes the access and assessment process for all clients and coordinates referrals across all providers in the CoC. When providers intake and assess clients using the same process, and when referrals are conducted with an understanding of all programs, including their offered services and bed availability, participants can be served with the most appropriate intervention and not with a “first come, first served” approach.”

While most communities, including the Tampa-Hillsborough County Continuum of Care, are developing CI&A processes because having such a process is now required by HUD through federal regulations and not having such a system can jeopardize a community’s HUD funding for program services, the reality is that CI&A process is an efficient and effective process that most benefits homeless individuals and households in our community.

Below is a list of resources and information about the Coordinated Intake and Assessment (also known as coordinated entry) from nationally recognized experts:

Implementing Coordinated/Centralized Intake – Joint webinar by HUD and USICH

“One Way In: The Advantages of Introducing System- Wide Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families” – National Alliance to End Homelessness

Prevention and Diversion

Prevention and shelter diversion assistance can help communities reduce the size of their homeless population. Prevention assistance can aid households in preserving their current housing situation; shelter diversion assists households in finding housing outside of shelter while they receive services to stabilize their housing or help them move into permanent housing. Each of these strategies can reduce the number of people entering the homeless assistance system and the demand for shelter and other programmatic housing beds. (National Alliance to End Homelessness)

Below is a list of resources and information about the Prevention and Diversion approach from nationally recognized experts:

National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Prevention and Diversion toolkit

Closing the Front Door: Creating a Successful Diversion Program for Homeless Families (USICH)

Targeting Prevention, Expanding Diversion by Funders Together to End Homelessness

STRATEGIES for Preventing Homelessness (HUD)

Trauma Informed Care

As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Homelessness is traumatic. It can involve the loss of home, community, stability, safety, and social networks. Trauma Informed Care is an evidence-based practice that teaches service providers and their organizations about the triggers and vulnerabilities of trauma survivors. Trauma Informed Care helps providers to provide care to trauma survivors more effectively, while avoiding re-traumatization.

Below is a list of resources and information about using Trauma Informed Care to help homeless individuals and families from nationally recognized experts:

SAMHSA’s Best Practices for Providers – Trauma Informed Care

Trauma-Informed Care in Homeless Service Settings by the National Center on Family Homelessness

Trauma-Informed Organizational Toolkit for Homeless Services (collaboration among The National Center on Family Homelessness and SAMHSA)

Trauma-Informed Care for Working with Homeless Veterans –VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a collaborative, person-centered approach to elicit and strengthen motivation to change. It offers providers a useful framework for being with and interacting with people who are experiencing homelessness or struggling with substance use, mental illness, and traumatic experiences. Motivational Interviewing is rooted in an understanding of how hard it is to change learned behaviors, many of which have been essential to survival on the streets. (SAMSHA).

Below is a list of resources and information about using Motivational Interviewing to help homeless individuals and families from nationally recognized experts:

SAMSHA’s Best Practices for Providers – Motivational Interviewing

Adopting Motivational Interviewing in Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program Services

Other Best Practices


SOAR – SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery:  SOAR is a national program designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.

What is “sustainable” housing cost burden?  Implications for HPRP (NAEH)

Studies: Targeting Resources to Homeless Subpopulations