Assets learning conference

Well the Assets Learning Conference was held in Washington, DC September 16th throughout the 19th.  On the 17th a Roundtable Discussion entitled: IDAs In Shelters was held.  The participants represented nine states throughout the United States.  We discussed how to further expand and perfect IDAs as a tool t help people exit shelters.  Here is the consensus we arrived at:

The following was reached by group consensus:

  1. In a locality a ‘lead agency’ should be determined to act as the area’s shelter IDA service providers spokes agency. This agency would lead technical assistance coordination and advocacy campaigns. It would be the local repository of technical assistance and best practice information. It would act as a clearinghouse of data and relevant information for IDA in Shelter service providers. The lead agency would also act to coordinate a local IDA in Shelters coalition and serve as liaison for extra-IDA in Shelters initiatives and communications.
  2. Case management for IDA in Shelter participants would be conducted by Community Action Agencies (CAAs). The CAA would receive data and information pertaining to IDA in Shelter accounts from the relevant bank. Communications with program participants would then be handled directly by the shelter direct service staff/ case managers.

Shelter case management staff would receive relevant training and ‘market’ the IDA in Shelters to residents. An IDA in Shelter program would thereby be a voluntary program. A client’s participation in such a program would be by his or her own choice and not compelled to participate as a condition of continued shelter residency.

  • An important gap in service provision for homeless shelter residents would be provided by IDA in Shelter programs. These programs would serve to act as a bridge from shelter residency to tenancy in housing in the community. The IDA program could serve to be a link from residency in a shelter to independence. This could be done primarily by dint of two aspects of an IDA in Shelter program. These are:
  1. Residual monies could be rolled into a conventional IDA program provided by a Community Based Organization.
  2. Financial literacy education received in a shelter can then be used to develop skills to buttress client’s housing sustainability.
  3. There were two identified questions that have legal ramifications that the group felt was relevant in the construction of an IDA in Shelter program. These are:
  4. Can a shelter take a deposit electronically as a shelter resident’s payee (or equivalent)? It could facilitate the consistency of participant’s deposits if their contribution is sent as a direct deposit to the IDA account by the paying agency.
  5. What are the strictures on public benefit asset maximums? Are they an impediment to the accumulation of monies in an IDA account? This issue ‘dovetails’ with the national and state advocacy on the elimination/liberalization of asset-maximums for means tested public benefits.

Now we can further develop and share our experiences and thoughts making IDAs a relevant and vital tool to help the homeless transit from shelter and into housing.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.


IDAs in Shelters for New York City

IDAs in Shelters


Individual Development Accounts are tools used to accelerate the savings of low income individuals. The expectation is that these IDAs are used to help those individuals currently residing in shelters to exit more expeditiously to permanent housing.   Through the expedient of matched deposits, clients contribute a contracted amount into a depository institution for a specified length of time.  At the termination of the contracted period or when the agreed-to maximum match amount has been reached the monies are withdrawn using a two-party check.  These monies are used exclusively for the purpose of moving from shelter to housing in the community.  Further, financial literacy classes are a requisite component of the program.   Extant case managers can also make referrals to credit counselling and other pertinent resources.

As an example, in Toronto, Canada the independent Living Accounts program are used in shelters. The match rate varied from $1:$2 to $1:$3.  Of the sample of 129 participants, 78% completed the 6 month minimum savings period, 57 completed the program.  Clients deposited a total of $33,139.  The total match monies added was $78.937.  44% of the participants met or exceeded the maximum matched amount of $400 per person.  Thus over a period of 8 months (the maximum time surveyed), a total of $112,076 was accumulated and available for clients.  Excluding the 72 participants that did not complete the designated savings period, this averages to $1,149.95 per successful participant.  (Data was derived from: Building Foundations for Canadians in Transition, Final Report, published by SEDI in 2006.)

By replicating and modifying the experiences of IDA programs and the information available from varied technical assistance providers, service, providers, extant IDA programs, etc. an IDA program can be created in New York City to similarly help move residents currently in shelter to housing in the community. In addition, the concomitant financial literacy classes and habits of savings engenders information and habits that shall positively affect the life chances of the participants