Awards and Recognition for Home Free

Awards and Recognition for Home Free

National Alliance to End Homelessness Names Housing First a Best Practice

In a March 2010 publication, the National Alliance to End Homelessness named Home Free's Housing First program a best practice in the rapid re-housing of domestic violence survivors.

Read the article here.

Home Free provides rapid re-housing for 80 to 100 families fleeing domestic violence every year.  The Housing First program was developed in 2003.  Approximately 97 percent of families in the program obtain housing, and 86 percent of those families remain in stable housing one year after ending services.


Volunteers of America/Annie E. Casey Family Strengthening Award

When the time came for the selection committee to choose recipients for the Volunteers of America/Annie E. Casey Family Strengthening Awards Program, Home Free was on the top of the list.

Home Free, the domestic violence intervention program operated by Volunteers of America Oregon (VOAOR) under the leadership of Program Director, Kris Billhardt, will be among the three local agency programs each selected to receive a $20,000 award.

Ms. Billhardt accepted the award during a special ceremony on June 26, 2007 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The overall goal of the annual award program is to encourage the development of approaches that strengthen families and improve outcomes for children, as well as to recognize those programs whose best practices demonstrate outstanding results. Home Free exemplifies the best of those criteria.

When a study revealed that only 15 percent of Oregon's domestic violence survivors were contacting shelters or crisis lines for help, Billhardt and her staff recognized a need for change.

After decades of offering short-term emergency shelter for women and children, Home Free closed its shelters and expanded its reach to be more accessible and to meet the needs of the underserved population in the Portland area.

Home Free’s model provides for survivors’ immediate safety needs through a motel vouchering program, expanding the emergency housing options in our community. Better access to domestic violence services is possible through advocates stationed in community-based settings such as the courthouse, child welfare and self-sufficiency offices, and the domestic violence unit of the local police bureau.

Critical to the program’s model is a commitment to stay involved with families and focus on needs that persist well beyond flight from immediate danger. Home Free’s “Housing First” program assists survivors in obtaining housing and helps with rent, utilities, and other costs of setting up and stabilizing a home. Of equal importance, advocates work actively with each survivor for as long as two years helping them navigate through issues involving law enforcement, child welfare, and civil legal processes. Services are aimed at reducing the vulnerability to return to an abusive partner by helping survivors establish lasting safety—a life no longer defined by domestic violence.

Twenty-one hard working staff members assisted by 30 volunteers keep the program running. Volunteers play a variety of roles that include staffing the crisis line, co-facilitating support groups, helping in the restraining order advocacy program at the Courthouse, and supporting Home Free’s children’s programs.

Home Free has now helped thousands of domestic violence survivors thrive. “Before our redesign, our shelter housed about 150 people annually. Last year, we served 4,300 women and children. That gives you a sense of how much more reach we have,” says Billhardt.

It's easy to understand why the Home Free program won the best practices award of $20,000.  We congratulate Kris and her dedicated staff for providing this critical service to our community!