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The Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) Demonstration

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The Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) Demonstration


The Urban Institute’s Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST) Demonstration is an ambitious effort to test strategies using housing as a platform for services to improve the life chances of vulnerable youth and adults. It builds on recent Urban Institute research demonstrating that parents living in public housing and in the private market with vouchers show strong improvements in areas such as health, education, and employment when provided with intensive, wraparound case management services. However, the success of the wraparound service model that the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) piloted from 2007–2010 did not show similar benefits for children who continued to struggle in school, engage in risky behavior, and have pregnancy and parenting rates far above average.1 Building on important lessons learned from the study, the Urban Institute launched the HOST demonstration in December 2010.

HOST aims to address parents’ key barriers to self-sufficiency –such as poor health, addictions, lack of a high school diploma, and historically weak connection to the labor force—while simultaneously integrating services and supports for children and youth. It does this by identifying and enhancing innovative, two-generation service models for low-income families living in public and mixed-income housing communities, and evaluating their effectiveness. HOST was lunched with funding from the Open Society Foundations’ Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation and subsequently supported by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

Designing effective place-based models that reach youth is critical to improving the lives of individual children and youth, and for ensuring the viability of public and mixed-income communities by potentially reducing critical neighborhood problems such as vandalism, drug trafficking, fighting, and gang activity. Figure 1 shows the theory of change for the HOST demonstration sites.

HOST Demonstration Theory of Change

Figure 1: HOST Demonstration Theory of Change


HOST Sites

The Urban Institute has identified four sites for this demonstration:

  • Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), Altgeld Gardens on Chicago’s south side

  • Home Forward, New Columbia and Humboldt Gardens in Portland, Oregon

  • DC Housing Authority (DCHA), Benning Terrace in southeast Washington, DC

The fourth site is pending official participation in HOST:

  • New York Housing Authority (NYCHA), Brownsville development in Brooklyn, NY

After several months of planning and technical assistance, the Chicago Housing Authority and Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland) launched the service component of the HOST Demonstration in November 2011. In the first few months, they have intensified resident outreach, finalized staffing, and modified service provision. Both CHA and Home Forward are implementing dual generation, intensive case management models that refer residents to services on and off-site, but their programs target substantially different types of communities and residents (see Figure 2). As of early 2012, the New York Housing Authority is in initial conversations and the DC Housing Authority officially joined the demonstration and will begin their planning processes to launch new HOST models in late 2012.

HOST Demonstration Models – Chicago and Portland

The CHA has identified households with children in the Altgeld public housing development who may particularly benefit from the HOST model. CHA is contracting out its services, with the Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network (UCAN) serving as the lead. UCAN will provide intensive case management to families in the target group, lowering caseloads from 55-1 to 23-1, providing employment, clinical, health, and financial literacy services for adults, and partnering with Project Match to implement the youth component.

Home Forward is building on its primary Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, Opportunities Housing Initiative (OHI), by offering more services to adults and incorporating case management for youth in New Columbia and Humboldt Gardens, two mixed income communities. Through HOST, Home Forward will serve more than twice as many households as before by enhancing the case management currently available to adults and contracting out individual components including employment-related programs and case management and services for youth.

Overview of HOST Demonstration Sites

Figure 2: Overview of HOST Demonstration Sites


The Urban Institute will interview families, service providers, and program administrators as well as analyze administrative program data to determine whether housing as a platform for services has a positive impact on vulnerable low-income residents. HOST is a formative evaluation (tracking the successes and challenges of each HOST site as they develop and refine their models over time) and consists of three key components: 1) an outcome evaluation, 2) a process evaluation, and 3) a detailed cost-analysis. In January 2012, the Urban Institute launched the baseline survey of families in both Chicago and Portland. Urban Institute staff will analyze the results along with administrative data on service use and interim outcomes and will implement a follow-up survey at the end of 2013. As part of the process study, Urban Institute staff will conduct interviews with program staff, focus groups with HOST participants, and will document the changes in program staffing, structure, and service provided over time. As HOST develops, the research team will assess the challenges and successes from the demonstration on a continual basis. Finally, a cost analysis will be conducted for the HOST models implemented at each of the sites.

Lessons learned from the HOST Demonstration will be disseminated regularly to help inform similar initiatives that seek to improve the lives of low-income children and families living in public housing and mixed-income developments.

    1 See Getsinger , Popkin SJ. "Reaching the Next Generation: The Crisis for CHA’s Youth." The Urban Institute: Washington, DC. December 2010.


The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.