Why Funding Supportive Housing Can End Homelessness

Supportive housing like Hotel Essex in San Francisco has worked to end homelessness.
Image: Flickr

The city and county of Los Angeles is funding new supportive housing projects. The Community Housing Partnership in San Francisco has been showing it works since the 1990s.

In February, Curbed Los Angeles reported that the City of Angels committed financing on nine housing projects. One in East Hollywood called Metro Villas by PATH Ventures will bring 122 new units of permanent supportive housing by 2019.

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Los Angeles County has a record high 58,000 homeless people, and the largest homeless population in the country. The city voted in November 2016 for a $1.2 billion bond initiative to fund the development of 10,000 units of permanent housing over 10 years for the homeless. The county also increased its sales tax in March 2017 by a quarter-cent in order to raise $3.5 billion over 10 years for supportive services for the homeless.

Supportive housing is a policy initiative that flowers when transitional housing, or shelters, fail to change outcomes. It’s one thing that the new Homelessness Policy Research Institute at University of Southern California will surely be studying.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Family Options Study: Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families, published in 2015, pointed to supportive housing for families with the greatest needs as a way to improve outcomes. The initial 18-month study found that families offered transitional housing generally did not fare better than those offered support without housing, though the costs of serving those in transitional housing was significantly higher that those simply offered support services.

Further study helped HUD better understand the costs and long-term impacts of housing subsidies and rapid re-housing, and these programs are largely funded at the federal level through Continuum of Care grants.

Supportive Housing History in San Francisco

Supportive housing has had successful outcomes in San Francisco since the Coalition on Homelessness called on the city in 1988 to prioritize the creation of affordable housing and deemphasize the provision of transitional housing and shelters, according to Community Housing Partnership.

Then in 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake damaged many of the city’s hotels being used for emergency housing. Triggering municipal emergency housing as well as federal disaster funding helped spur a formal partnership in 1990, which was also supplemented by private foundation grants. The Partnership owns, manages and provides support services in 17 buildings totaling 1,300 units. There are many more supportive housing units in development.

Tying support services to housing is where the rubber meets the road in solving homelessness for many, as the Partnership attests to in its 2016-2017 Impact Report:

  • 97 percent of residents retained housing
  • 1,762 individuals housed in supportive housing
  • 2,207 case management hours
  • 27,605 counseling hours

The program cost $33 million and the Partnership raised $37.9 million that year.

In LA, PATH boasts similar numbers and offers a variety of services, including support services. The organization provides street outreach, interim housing and rapid rehousing. The organization’s goal is to help 10,000 veterans, families and individuals “make it home by 2020.”

Supportive Housing Services

Community Housing Partnership provides the following types of support services to its formerly homeless residents:

Case management services include on-site resident services counselors that “address issues stemming from their experience of homelessness to improve their quality of life and help them become self-reliant.” Highlights include:

  • Service plans that detail short and long-term goals
  • One-on-one counseling and group sessions
  • Community activities and workshops

Mental health services provide assessments, treatment plans, therapy and crisis intervention delivered by a master’s degree-level clinician supervised by a licensed professional.

Family support services include after-school academic help, cultural excursions and educational field trips for youth in the Partnerships’ housing. Staff help parents navigate school resources. There’s family counseling, parent counseling, mental health workshops, teen health education and safety and well-being training.

Supportive services seek to address the whole person, not just their homelessness. That mission has manifested into career training programs as well.

Supportive Housing Success Story

In addition to graduating from a drug counseling program and securing housing, Tammie Underwood took part in Community Housing Partnership’s Lobby Service Training Program that included classes and training that eventually led to a full-time clerk job at Caritas Management.

I am so thankful for the opportunities Community Housing Partnership offered me. People like me, with criminal backgrounds and a history of struggles, don’t usually receive second chances. I could have easily ended up back on the streets. But instead, Community Housing Partnership helped me get a job. For the first time, I am able financially support my youngest daughter in college, receive health benefits from my job and save for the future. I am proud of what I have accomplished and my children and grandchildren are proud too. It has been a dream come true,” Underwood said in 2014.

Learn more about ways to end homelessness:

Cities Housing Homeless Youth Through HUD Grants & 100-Day Challenges

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.