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Florida Housing Finance Corporation Successfully Offers Assistance to Homeless Schoolchildren in Santa Rosa County

Published on April 1, 2020 by Florida Housing Finance Corporation
Florida Housing Finance Corporation Successfully Offers Assistance to Homeless Schoolchildren in Santa Rosa County

Pilot program releases data that shows promise for a statewide initiative

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) has recently released its findings from a pilot program conducted in Santa Rosa County looking at the significant need for affordable, permanent housing options for homeless families with school-aged children. The state of Florida currently has more than 96,208 homeless schoolchildren, and in many cases, a lack of stable housing prevents these children from attending school on a consistent basis. Florida Housing, in collaboration with local community partners including: the Santa Rosa County School District, Opening Doors Northwest Florida, Milton Housing Authority, and Family Promise – created the Homeless Schoolchildren Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Pilot Program to provide eligible homeless families in Santa Rosa County with one year of rental assistance and case management support.

“The TBRA Pilot Program is the first of its kind in Florida that works to provide financial and housing relief to homeless families, while also emphasizing the importance of childhood education,” said Trey Price, Executive Director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation. “Florida Housing, along with our partners at the Department of Education and in the local Santa Rosa County community, are proud to release successful findings from the first year of the program’s launch.”

The TBRA Pilot Program assisted homeless families in rural and small communities in Santa Rosa County, Florida identified by the school district based on children who were already in the county’s homeless education program. They received 12 months of rental assistance, academic support for students and community-based supportive services to maintain stability and self-sufficiency. The goal of the pilot program was to learn whether the benefits of these resources and community partnerships would allow for greater assistance of homeless families in smaller counties with a significant number of rural and small communities, as Florida Housing’s traditional practices have proven more effective in larger counties and urban areas.

The TBRA Pilot Program was launched in early 2018. It has been a successful approach in helping to decrease the number of homeless schoolchildren in the county from 1,033 to 656. Of the children participating in the pilot program, 98% were promoted to the next grade in school and there was an 11% increase in regular attendance. Parents also gained employment and showed an increased income.

“This grant from Florida Housing has allowed us to increase our community’s awareness and demonstrate that homelessness is a significant issue in the state of Florida,” said Dr. Karen Barber, Director of Federal Programs with Santa Rosa County School District. “Now, even more so in light of the recent global pandemic, there will be an increased need for housing across the state as more families experience economic setbacks and we cannot let this impact their children’s need for a strong education. We hope this pilot program in Santa Rosa County inspires other communities to begin similar initiatives in their area.”

Hernando County is the next county in Florida that has implemented Florida Housing’s TBRA program in an effort to combat the number of known homeless schoolchildren in its communities. The program’s primary partners will be the Hernando County School District, Hernando County Housing Authority, the Hernando County Health and Human Services Division and the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition. As in Santa Rosa County, the partners have formally committed to provide services and resources to assist eligible homeless families in accessing rental housing, obtaining stability and preventing future homelessness.

Attached is the program fact sheet. For more information about Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s variety of programs and services throughout the state of Florida, please visit www.floridahousing.org.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) was created by the state legislature in 1980 to assist in providing a range of affordable housing opportunities for qualifying Florida residents. As the state’s housing finance agency (HFA), Florida Housing administers state and federal resources to provide affordable homeownership and rental housing options across the entirety of the state. The vision of Florida Housing is to be recognized as an outstanding provider of innovative, measurable, data-driven and fiscally sustainable solutions that respond to the affordable housing challenges in Florida. Through its work with developers, lenders, realtors, local governments and elected officials, Florida Housing continues in its mission to increase housing opportunities and ensure its programs are well matched to the needs of those it serves.