Leading the Way to Address Homelessness and Housing Instability Through Housing First Interventions

Waypoint’s Housing Services works to support community members experiencing housing instability. This instability can range from unpaid rent resulting in risk of eviction, households temporarily living with friends or family, paying to live out of a motel, or staying in a place not meant for habitation. In whichever case, our Housing Services is the local lead in helping to meet the ever-changing needs of the community and ensure programs operate using best practice, efficient approaches. Over the past five years, we have seen tremendous growth within our Housing Services and the number of individuals served has increased by more than 10,000 individuals. With this increase in services comes the need to clarify with our community what services we are providing, why some of them are changing, and how we are keeping these changes centered on Housing First practices. 

Below is a quick summary of our housing services: 

•    Coordinated Entry Services provides a one-stop intake point for all housing services in our area. This collaborative approach allows for simpler navigation of housing services for those in a housing crisis, while also allowing over 20 local agencies to provide the most effective services without the burden of multiple intake processes. This streamlining of services is demonstrated by the graphic below: 









It supports the following community agencies:


Access to Independence


Catherine McAuley Center

Catholic Charities

Catholic Worker House

Family Promise

Four Oaks

Friends of the Family


Helping Hands

Hinzman Center


Hospital Social Workers*


Iowa Legal Aid

Larry Nelson Center

Linn County General Assistance

Local law enforcement*


Marion Cares

Metro Catholic Outreach

Veteran’s Affairs

Willis Dady

*(shelter navigation/safety planning)


·        Homeless Diversion efforts focus on those who are at risk of homelessness but are not yet experiencing literal homelessness.

·        Eviction Prevention supports households that are in the initial stages of experiencing a housing crisis.

·        Tenant Academy is a free, nine-hour course focusing on communication, conflict resolution, money management, move-in/move-out process, and taking care of a home. Upon completion of the course, participants receive certification to present to landlords to show their reliability and knowledge of the rental process.

·        Rapid Re-Housing focuses on securing permanent housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The program focuses on housing identification, rent assistance, and case management. Financial assistance can be used to cover the cost of security deposits and limited rental assistance. Case management focuses on connecting households to other resources and services in the community to address any issues or barriers that may prevent them from maintaining their stable housing.

·        Emergency Shelter provides overnight shelter, basic needs, information, referrals, one-on-one support, and skill development to women and families experiencing homelessness.

Out of all of our programs, our Housing Services Director, J’nae Peterman, often says that shelter seems to be the most familiar to the community. Our data reflects that emergency shelter numbers for families with children have decreased. This is largely attributed to efforts to divert, when possible, to housing solutions that exist outside of emergency shelter, and supporting people in maintaining and building natural support networks. Those served by our shelter program currently only make up .01% of the work we do to address housing instability.

Instead, we are directing our system activities to stabilizing people wherever they are when experiencing housing instability with the common goal of housing them as quickly as possible when their instability leads to homelessness. This transition comes from two national sources, the first being from studies released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness(NAEH) highlight the importance of “Housing First” approaches. There is growing evidence that it is an effective solution to addressing homelessness and households are more likely to remain stably housed. Per the NAEH website, a Housing First Program could save up to $23,000 per consumer per year in comparison with a shelter program.

·        Housing First is an approach that prioritizes providing housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness, and serving as a platform where they can pursue goals and improve their quality of life. This is guided by the belief that individuals need basic necessities (food and a place to live) before addressing employment, substance abuse, mental health, and budgeting. (National Alliance to End Homelessness)

·        Individuals who receive Rapid Re-Housing assistance experience homelessness for shorter periods of time than those assisted with shelter or transitional housing. Rapid Re-Housing is less expensive compared to other homeless interventions, such as shelter or transitional housing. (National Alliance to End Homelessness)

·        Evidence from several rigorous studies indicates that Housing First programs increase housing stability and decrease rates of homelessness. (HUD)

The second comes from an assessment the National Alliance to End Homelessness did in Cedar Rapids, where their results indicated that to have an effective homeless response system, our community needs to have the following goals: 

1.      House people as quickly as possible

2.      Divert people from imminent homelessness whenever possible

This is complemented by our service data across all aspects of our program for the past 5 years:








Emergency Shelter


# Individuals Served







Rapid Re-Housing


# Individuals Served







Homeless Diversion/Eviction Prevention


# Individuals Served







Coordinated Entry


# Individuals Served







As Thanksgiving approaches, and with many of our minds on family, food, home, and holidays, I think many of us balance gratitude for what we have and thinking about those in our community who do not have similar support.

For those looking to support the work of empowering community members experiencing housing instability and/ or poverty, you can do so through the following ways:

·        Make a monetary donation to support Waypoint’s Housing Services

·        Raise awareness by following Waaypoint on social media and sharing our posts

·        Become a Waypoint volunteer

·        Participate in Waypoint Events (Waypoint Wonderland and Tribute to Women of Achievement are two upcoming events in the next 30 days!)

Thoughts by…
Jade Riley
Waypoint Volunteer & Community Outreach Coordinator

With support from J’nae Peterman, Director of Housing Services

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