Supportive housing combines affordable housing with a variety of support and services, built for individuals with behavioral health needs or developmental disabilities. This housing model aims to address chronic homelessness, while enabling individuals to live independently and engage with the surrounding community, and has proven to be effective across the country, with innovations emerging from states in every region.
Supportive housing is meant to be permanent, by providing long-term housing with no designated limits on how long an individual or family can stay. Tenants hold leases and are responsible for a portion of the rent and utilities, typically spending 30% of their income or less on rental costs. Participating in services is voluntary and is not a requirement of maintaining the lease.
However, supportive housing can often be confused with other types of housing models. For example, transitional housing provides temporary housing and services before an individual moves to a more permanent residence.
Supportive housing is one of the most sustainable ways to provide affordable housing that connects individuals with their communities. Since residences are located within communities, individuals have access to all the public amenities in that area and the opportunity to interact with the community. In some programs, individuals rent units in buildings that are not exclusively dedicated to supportive housing - allowing them to live alongside neighbors who do not necessarily have disabilities or behavioral health needs.
Since services are typically provided at or near the residence, this housing model increases the accessibility of those supports. Individuals do not need to travel long distances to meet with providers, particularly in a time when the pandemic can make traveling even more difficult.
By offering stable housing, individuals are more likely to address their own healthcare needs and receive early healthcare interventions. Providers can link individuals to primary and specialty medical care. In a study done in Denver, “50% of supportive housing residents experienced improved health status, 43% had better mental health outcomes, and 15% reduced substance use.”
The continued progress of this housing model faces a few main challenges.
Overcoming NIMBYism requires a multi-faceted, long-term approach. This includes education and awareness on the benefits of housing, engaging the local community as early as possible, and sharing the lived experiences of community advocates. HUD offers a NIMBY decision tree which provides a framework for advocates and agencies who are tackling these various factors.
Supportive housing requires a mix of funding sources to establish or renovate a quality residence unit, operate the residence, and deliver services to tenants. Funding sources include Medicaid, government agencies, and private philanthropic organizations. However, these funding sources are competitive to obtain, shift with changes in policy and community support, and come with their own unique requirements.
Providers of supportive housing are working to address unequal distribution of housing resources across gender identity, race, and need. Minority groups continue to represent a disproportionate number of unsheltered homeless. HUD published a CoC Race and Ethnicity Analysis Tool to help Continuum leaders identify and analyze racial disparities in people experiencing homelessness within their communities.
This housing model was originally designed to address chronic homelessness. However, only 49% of beds were dedicated to those experiencing chronic homelessness in 2019. Naturally this raises the question of how providers should identify individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. To help providers identify these individuals and prioritize them for resources, HUD established its official definition for chronic homelessness in 2015. Providers also rely on their HMIS to capture a client’s current living situation and track a client’s entries/exits from the system.
In this webinar, Sue Augustus, Senior Program Manager at CSH, Foothold Technology VP of Customer Success and Advocacy, Paul Rossi, and Foothold Senior Advisor, David Bucciferro, take a deeper dive into Medicaid and supportive housing. Learn from agencies that are using Medicaid and how to prepare your agency to manage Medicaid data.
We have decades of experience working with supportive housing providers and helping to integrate technology into their programs.
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