Surprising results with homeless pilot in Chennai

March 26, 2012 Posted by Unitus Labs, Update

Multiple settlements on a pavement in the T Nagar area of Chennai

Unitus Labs has published the fifth and final case study from the Sorenson-Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative, a report that explores how the Equitas Bird’s Nest pilot was able to successfully stabilize housing for extremely poor homeless families in Chennai, India. Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT) launched the program in 2009 with a simple premise – move the homeless into a safe home of their own and then help build productive skills once they have been settled.

Housing wasn’t top concern for homeless

What they discovered, however, is that even promise of stable shelter was not enough to move these people off the streets. Interviews with participants revealed an overriding concern among the ultra poor that they would lose what little income they were earning from begging. After beneficiaries initially resisted moving with only the loose promise of future income-generating activities, the EDIT team quickly revised the program to flip the sequence of interventions and led the process with a new livelihood.  It was only after that switch was made that the program was able to successfully move homeless families into their own housing units.

Significant progress in lowering cost per beneficiary

At a higher level, the program also showed signs of being extremely cost efficient, with individuals who are earning a stable living able to cover their own food, housing and healthcare costs. At the pilot’s conclusion, the EDIT team projects that they would be able to achieve per-beneficiary costs of $60-$100 – dramatically lower than the $600-$800 industry average for ultra poor programs.

In its report titled, India-Urban Poverty Report 2009, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation of the Government of India estimates that by 2030, nearly 41% of the country’s population will be living in cities. Facing that reality, it has become more important than ever that we develop new, effective ways to halt a potential surge in urban ultra poverty and homelessness.

For more information on the Equitas Bird’s Nest program and ways to create sustainable change for the urban ultra poor, download the full report >

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