Curling up on the cold, hard sidewalk to go to sleep. That’s how people who are chronically homeless end most of their days. They often face addiction or mental illness, shutting them out of opportunities to live in a permanent home.
The Cuyahoga County Housing First Initiative develops permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless—people who are without housing for many years—which combines subsidized rental housing with supportive services. Residents don’t need to be sober or on medication. The expectations are simple: pay your rent, take reasonable care of your apartment and be a good neighbor.
But doesn’t it cost more to develop permanent supportive housing than other programs? Why should local governments make room for it in their shrinking budgets?
Because it works.
When people have a stable place to live, they are:
- More likely to go to a doctor
- More willing to participate in therapy and reconnect with their families
- More likely to find and keep a job: residents of the Housing First Initiative increased their incomes by 36%, and their employment rate increased by 15%
Permanent supportive housing also curbs the use of public services, like hospitals and jails.
Let's take a look at the before-and-afters of all Housing First residents since the program was initiated.
Psychiatric Hopsital Admittance
- In the three years before the initiative: 197 would-be Housing First residents were admitted to state psychiatric hospitals 329 times.
- After moving into Housing First: only 10 residents were admitted 14 times.
Serving Jail Time
- In the three years before the initiative: 35% of would-be Housing First residents served time.
- After moving into Housing First: just 5% of residents served time.
The cost of developing an apartment building with services is far less than the incurring costs hospital stays and jail time. As this graph shows, our experience is typical of what communities are finding around the country.
Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Cost Savings with Permanent Supportive Housing,” 2010.
Targeted to people with high needs and barriers to stability, permanent supportive housing can save taxpayer dollars and help people have healthier, more productive lives—like these six people whose lives were transformed in Cuyahoga County.
Have you seen permanent supportive housing in action? How can we show our support to elected officials to preserve or increase crucial funding?