By Tom Peterson
In an article titled, “Nationwide, Homelessness Plunged Under Obama,” The Atlantic points to the great gains as seen in the HUD data: “Between 2007 and 2016, the number of people living on the streets, in encampments, or otherwise outside the shelter system, has plunged dramatically—a drop-off of 31 percent.”
The most important figures fall in the 2010–2016 range, since that span serves as a measure of the federal government’s homelessness strategy. The feds can’t take all the credit, of course: Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing are policy concepts that started at the city and community level, before the Obama administration adopted them as federal law. The work to fight homelessness is first and foremost the work of local government. But federal support… has helped more communities adopt and expand housing-first strategies.
“While the results in the report are encouraging,” the article continues, “they raise the question: Will President-elect Trump continue the Obama administration’s efforts to stop homelessness?”
No matter how that question gets answered, health systems across the nation are increasingly becoming key players in the Housing First movement. And they are finding a plethora of resources, as well as organizations with decades of experience that will help them navigate the complexities of setting up and managing successful programs.
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Founded in 1991, CSH is a “collaborative and pragmatic community partner as well as an influential advocate for supportive housing.” It’s involved in programs in 300 cities nationwide and has offices in more than a dozen states. Its offerings are wide ranging, including the Supportive Housing Training Center that “provides a combination of webinars and on-the-ground assistance to health centers to foster and expand health center coordination and collaboration with key partners. The goal is to streamline service delivery and improve healthcare outcomes for extremely low-income individuals who frequently use emergency rooms, hospitals, and nursing homes, have housing instability, and lack a connection to primary and preventive care services.”
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Founded in the mid-eighties, the Alliance “analyzes policy and develops pragmatic, cost-effective policy solutions” around homelessness. The Alliance board includes members such as Judy Woodruff, Mike Lowry, Henry Cisneros. They offer workshops on a variety of subjects, including Rapid Re-Housing.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council
This “network of more than 10,000 doctors, nurses, social workers, patients, and advocates who share the mission to eliminate homelessness” offers a variety of resources including webinars, online and printed publications and an annual conference.
Founded in 1992 by Sam Tsemberis, this organization’s website offers a variety of helpful videos.
This group wants to help you avoid reinventing the wheel. Among other helpful resources, 100,000 homes offers a treasure trove of dozens of technical helps, templates, how-to’s —from a “rental arrears flow chart” to a pdf on “Partnering with the VA and Accessing HUD-VASH.” They also have a “Peer Mentor Network” that helps communities in areas such as building the team, lining up housing, and helping people stay housed.
Resource: HHS Guide
HHS Permanent Supportive Housing Kit. Building Your Program: Permanent Supportive Housing. The Department of Health and Human Services has developed a thorough 133-page how-to to help communities develop permanent supportive housing, including the following:
- Tips for Mental Health Authorities
- Tips for Agency Administrators and Program Leaders
- Sources of Funding
- Local and State Housing Plans
- Evaluating a Housing Market
- Phases of Housing Development
- With case studies looking at Housing Support Teams, and a few places the program took root, and samples of helpful documents like job descriptions and Memorandum of Understanding
Hospital / Permanent Supportive Housing: Helpful Articles
The Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Press Room includes a great resource for news about permanent supportive housing. New articles are added article almost daily and many of these focus on health systems involvement.
Why Hospitals Are Housing the Homeless? Hospitals & Health Networks.
When Housing Comes First, Hospitals Benefit, Hospitals & Health Networks.
Housing the First 100, an overview of an effort in Orlands that focused on Florida Hospital’s top 100 users.
Overcoming NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) is one of the greatest challenges for those working in housing first. Even when they agree to move forward, concern about crime and lower property values often make it hard for communities to agree on a place. The Homeless Hub has a number of resources connected to managing the challenges of NIMBY. Community Supportive Housing, or CSH, has an article showing (with links to studies) that supportive housing can improve neighborhoods.
What Works In The Fight Against Homelessness? An NPR story with great links.
Another NPR story about LA county, to expand to California, asks if Medicaid funds should be used for permanent supportive housing.
Impact of Permanent Supportive Housing on the Use of Acute Care Health Services by Homeless Adults
Permanent Supportive Housing: Assessing the Evidence, Psychiatry Online.
How Housing for the Chronically Homeless May Save Taxpayers Money, from Fox Business
Health care groups pledge $21.5 million for housing, homeless help. Portland-area systems — Oregon Health and Science University, Adventist Health Portland, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health and Providence Health & Services Oregon — pitch in to build 382 units for supportive housing.
Linking Housing and Health Care Works for Chronically Homeless Persons, from HUD
Other Stakeholder Health Articles
Hospitals, Housing First Partnerships Spread Across the Nation
Housing First: Tanya Tull and Sam Tsemberis