CSH and its partners around the country have succeeded in not only building consensus that supportive housing works, but in also building a supportive housing industry that is well-established and highly innovative.
In 1991, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) began working to build and organize a national movement to implement the most cost-effective solution to homelessness and public system involvement among vulnerable individuals and families – permanent supportive housing. Nearly 19 years later, we and our partners around the country have succeeded in not only building consensus that supportive housing works, but in also building a supportive housing industry that is well-established and highly innovative.
In 2010, the supportive housing industry is facing a moment of both great promise and great challenges. The economic downturn and its subsequent impact on state and local budgets happened just as supportive housing was being embraced and adopted by communities across the country as the central solution to chronic homelessness – and as the supportive housing industry was entering into maturity.
The results of the survey from over 350 respondents – available in a summary report called Forging Ahead: The State of the Supportive Housing Industry – are optimistic. The results of the survey described that despite the economic downturn, industry members believe that supportive housing has a bright future with the potential to end and prevent homelessness for society’s most vulnerable individuals. Over two-thirds of the survey respondents are hopeful about the future of the supportive housing model and feel that it is critical to move forward to expand supportive housing production. As one respondent noted, “I believe supportive housing is a key component in ending homelessness. It is imperative that we educate lawmakers and communities so that supportive housing can be built to help those most in need.”
Not surprisingly, the survey results indicate that funding availability presents a very real challenge within the context of the current economic climate. While supportive housing relies heavily on federal funding sources, many state and local governments have been stepping up their funding for services and rental subsidies in recent years. However, severe budget shortfalls and cutbacks for states, cities, and counties across the country threaten this progress. Given this context, survey respondents felt that finding ways to increase public investment and coordinate existing funding streams are crucial strategies for making sure that the supportive housing industry remains viable and thrives.
Despite funding challenges, supportive housing providers across the country are implementing innovative new models of supportive housing. Supportive housing innovations reported by survey respondents include the implementation of housing first/harm reduction models; the integration of supportive housing and affordable housing, and the tailoring of supportive housing models for specific populations. Historically an intervention for chronically homeless single adults with mental illness, supportive housing is now being adapted by industry members for other populations including chronically homeless families (44%), veterans (35.2%), and formerly incarcerated individuals (33.8%).
The survey results demonstrate that the political will and government commitment to ending homelessness remains as strong as ever. While progress toward our ultimate goal of ending homelessness is threatened by the constraints on the availability of public funding, stakeholders across the country understand that supportive housing is smart, cost-effective and compassionate public policy. The supportive housing industry is forging ahead.
Jacquelyn Anderson is Senior Program Manager of Research and Evaluation at the Corporation for Supportive Housing.