Supportive housing offers affordable housing to vulnerable homeless populations, people exiting the justice system, those fresh out of the hospital, or anyone departing from other types of institutions. Caseworkers come alongside to provide case management services and link people to services needed, which can encompass finding employment, securing services for their children, addiction help, health care, mental health benefits, and more.
The critical piece of housing support programs is that all services are voluntary. People are provided the homes immediately and then can decide for themselves when they want to pursue services.
The Housing First model, the federal government’s official plan for supportive housing, has been proven to work. 62% of participants in Housing First maintained housing for an entire two-year period, while only 31% that were required to participate in treatment remained housed for the same period.
In this article, we’ll discuss what’s included in supportive housing and the eight ways it allows unhoused individuals and families to live and thrive.
The cornerstone provisions of supportive housing include:
Supportive housing is meant to get as many people off the street as quickly as possible. Once they’re in housing, the unhoused can better make changes in their lives to stay off the streets permanently.
If someone lives without a stable home, it takes a toll on their physical and mental health. Housing and food instability leads to people postponing critical medical care, stopping necessary medication, and increasing emergency department visits. Instead of prioritizing proactive care, people without housing are only able to seek care when it’s an emergency, endangering their lives.
A permanent supportive housing program removes the barrier to entry and provides a stable home. Coupled with supportive services, this allows people to seek medical care and meet their needs before a crisis occurs. They’re not living with the fear of losing their housing depending on their income, so it creates a safe environment where they feel comfortable seeking the help they need.
According to the American Medical Association, structural racism is “the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, and criminal justice.”
One of the best ways to combat structural racism is to provide supported housing programs for all people and to champion BIPOC housing developers and service partners. The Center for Supportive Housing provides aggregated data in the Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index to decentralize whiteness and show if a certain race is well-represented in a public system.
By understanding how structural racism impacts supportive housing, nonprofits can better support underserved individuals with comprehensive services that address problems in housing caused by racism and understand where they need to hire more BIPOC individuals to boost that important work.
Permanent supportive housing programs remove the financial barrier to seeking proactive health care. Caseworkers seek to provide optimal health by sharing the information and services that people need to get healthy and stay that way. This ensures that people can heal from past trauma and obtain the care they need to live a long, abundant life.
There is a plethora of research that shows the benefits of supportive housing on tenants’ health. According to Santa Clara County in California (which has done extensive work in permanent supportive housing):
While organizations may wish otherwise, no one can be forced to change. Supported housing doesn’t force any services on anyone but rather encourages people to make the changes on their terms. This allows people to develop their own goals and their own pace, which makes them feel empowered to follow through on the choices they make to improve their own lives. Empowerment leads to change that creates lifelong success.
Family supportive housing benefits a particularly vulnerable population: homeless children. Research has shown that unhoused children are more likely to have negative experiences in school, which can include absenteeism, repeating the same grade, and higher needs for special education services. Any one of these could contribute to poorer academic performance, which creates barriers to entry into healthy adult life.
A study completed with data from the Minnesota Departments of Education and Human Services showed that if a child remained in supportive housing services for three years, they did better in math, decreased school mobility (how often they transfer in and out of different schools), and had improved school attendance. It also decreased the likelihood of the involvement of child protective services over time.
The homeless elderly population is projected to triple by 2030. These people may be forced to leave the community they know and love, especially if they are priced out of housing due to rising costs and inflation. Supported housing helps seniors and other age groups stay in the community they know as they age.
Seniors who feel comfortable interacting in their community (beyond just their known family and friends) are more likely to increase physical activity, be in a positive mood, and experience fewer negative feelings. Keeping seniors in their desired community through a supportive housing for the elderly program allows them to thrive as they age.
Housing is a critical component in addressing the needs of people with severe mental illness, who make up 30% of the homeless population. Typical housing providers tend to reject applications from those with severe mental illness, making it difficult for them to obtain housing through traditional routes. Plus, many live on SDI, which simply doesn’t provide enough income for rental housing in the United States.
Supportive housing programs offer a cost-effective solution for those experiencing mental health disorders and connect them with the services they need to seek medical care. While they aren’t forced to obtain healthcare, caseworkers are checking in on them, encouraging them to continue medication or services that they need to stay healthy. This can make all the difference for someone with a mental health issue to maintain a high quality of life.
Many community members have an unsupported bias against the development of supportive housing. The truth is that permanent supportive housing benefits everyone in the neighborhood, both housed and unhoused. There are no increases in the crime rate or decline in property value once supportive housing is built. In fact, most people forget that supportive housing is even built once it’s there. This allows previously unhoused people to live in the community free of the stigma that can come with being homeless.
Caseworkers must keep extremely organized data to ensure they’re properly following up with clients in supportive housing services. One of the best ways for organizations to support caseworkers in this noble work and better achieve their goals is through the integration of case management for homeless software such as PlanStreet.
PlanStreet offers software solutions with supportive and transitional housing in mind, with tools focusing on streamlining services support, organizational needs, and itemizing grant funding. PlanStreets intuitive software allows caseworkers and administrative employees to provide better housing case management services through:
Take away the stress of organization for caseworkers and make all client data and information easy to access with PlanStreet. Schedule a call with us today to learn more about how our case management software can benefit your supportive housing organization.