Ending Homelessness, Housing and Support Felicity Reynolds, CEO
The Mercy Foundation
Philanthropic Foundation established by the North Sydney Sisters of Mercy in 1990
Now - focus on homelessness: more specifically ending homelessness.
Special interest in women who are homeless.
We advocate, educate, develop through partnership and make grants (GEH; Small grants; Partnership projects).
We are not a direct service provider.
Mercy Foundation Grants
Grants to End Homelessness– EOIs closed last week.
About giving ‘strategically’ and to evidence based, outcomes focused initiatives that prevent or end people’s homelessness.
A good example of a grant we made in 08/09 is to Marist Youth Care – Affordable Housing for Life. A relatively small grant ($<100,000) helped to leverage more funding (jobs stimulus almost $2million).
A few important points
My background is mostly in disability, adult mental health and in health research.
No expertise (or experience) in youth homelessness.
I do have some expertise (and experience) in adult chronic homelessness.
A passion for programs and responses that end people’s homelessness.
Perhaps I’m not an obvious choice to speak at a conference about youth homelessness.
But I thank YAA for inviting me and I hope that some of my observations; my knowledge of some research and my interest in solving homelessness may be of some use to you.
What I will talk about today
A few observations from North America (Churchill Fellowship study – reported 2008).
The arguments for ending homelessness.
Permanent supportive housing to end homelessness for those who have experienced it long term.
Common Ground – an example of PSH.
Pathways to Housing - another example.
Some possible lessons for responding to youth homelessness – including an overview of the Foyer approach.
What I hope will happen
We will talk together, as colleagues who are all interested in solving homelessness for young people.
Take what you want……and leave the rest.
Any observations and conclusions are mine….and I acknowledge that we need to adapt any programs and models to our own contexts.
I welcome feedback and robust discussion.
First….the USA….and a few things I didn’t much like……
Some additional things I have problems with…….
Inadequate welfare safety net.
No universal health care coverage.
High rate of homelessness.
Disparity between rich and poor.
Now…..a few things I did like
Before moving on
One of the strangest organisations I visited in Canada
Solving homelessness 3 essential arguments
The costs argument
Costs the same, if not more, to continue to service homelessness than to solve it.
Numerous studies have shown this (eg. Culhane - $US 41,000 per year).
65 costs studies done by cities in the USA – results are counter intuitive (Million Dollar Murray).
People who have to get their needs met through crisis based and emergency services (ambulances, EDs, acute units, IPUs, interaction with courts, police etc) can cost more than people who are permanently housed and provided ongoing support services.
The ethical argument
A very significant proportion of the chronically homeless population have one or more of the following conditions:
Although chronic homelessness represents a small share of the overall homeless population, chronically homeless people use up more than 50 percent of the services (for single homeless adults). The most successful model for housing people who experience chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing using a Housing First approach .
( National Alliance to End Homelessness, Washington DC).
Solving chronic adult homelessness
We have discovered a solution to chronic homelessness and it is called ‘permanent supportive housing’.
This is not a complex model to grasp.
If you don’t believe me, check with people who are homeless – Toronto survey (over 95% wanted help to find a place to live).
Housing First means exactly what it says. Housing first provides a level of stability to deal with problems. Lots of evidence (Tsemberis)….more about this a bit later.
But we must plan to end homelessness (it won’t just happen)
Planning to end homelessness – now more than 400 city plans in US; Canada also now doing 10 year plans to end homelessness. UK – rough sleepers initiative also had success (Steph will talk more about this soon – and give it some local context).
US plans focus on local areas and have public and private partnerships – the whole community owns the plan. USA has reported reductions nationwide.
11 key elements of success
HUD notes 11 key elements to successfully reduce chronic homelessness. The first five of these are considered essential elements for success. They are:
Clear goal set
Community wide approach
Organisational structure and leadership specifically for reducing chronic street homelessness
Mainstream agency involvement
Private sector involvement
Local elected official commitment
Progress tracking mechanism
New approaches to services
Strategy to combat NIMBY (Not in my back yard)
Results oriented activities
Use of enumeration methodologies (counts) in order to measure success. (Break down that 105,000 figure into more manageable local statistics).
Increased research and use of evidence based interventions (eg. Now clear evidence that the same outcomes are achieved for families who go straight to permanent housing, as opposed to transitional housing first).
Consumer focus – what do people want? (not, what is it we can we provide?)
Focus on most vulnerable and complex (chronically homeless). Can’t do everything at once – help the hardest first and the rest looks a bit easier.
But also ensure all other parts of system working (eg. Prevention; help for families etc).
A few good service examples
Permanent supportive housing
Common Ground (description next slide)
Pathways to Housing – using ACT
Street to Home (Toronto)
Housing first (can be adapted to a range of models)
Safe havens and residential managed alcohol programs (low threshold services)
Key components of the Common Ground model
Permanent supportive housing
High quality housing and close to services
Safe for vulnerable people – 24 hour concierge.
Connected to community
Landlord is not the support provider
Mixed tenancies – social and affordable.
( Sydney project )
Common Ground – limitations
An urban model.
Fairly large developments – to achieve economies of scale for on-site support.
Probably not the best model for young people (under 21?). Additional things need to happen at this age (not just housing and support).
Pathways to Housing
Housing First. No need to be ‘housing ready’.
No specific buildings – mainly head leased (and recommend no more than 20% clients in any one building).
Consumer focused and driven.
Few rules - Need to pay 30% income in rent; accept visits.
Thanks to Dr Sam Tsemberis for some of the following slides about PTH.
Annapolis & BaltimoreMD Hartford CT Pathways’ Housing First Programs in the USA & Canada Worcester, MA Oakland, CA Salt Lake City, UT Denver, CO Chattanooga, TN Charlotte County, FL Philadelphia PA NYC Housing First Sites that received technical assistance from Pathways to Housing, Inc Washington DC Housing First Sites established 2003-2007 ColumbusOH Richmond, VA Portland, OR Seattle, WA Chicago, IL Calgary Toronto Los Angeles, CA Fort Lauderdale, FL <email@example.com>
Current System Housing and service programs: A series of steps (I prefer the term ‘hoops’) Permanent Housing Transitional Housing Drop-in, Shelter Outreach
Eligibility criteria for supportive housing: (NYC Survey of providers in 2005)
Clean time –92.5% of providers require
Insight into mental illness
Compliance with treatment
Credit checks (similar exclusions here in NSW if money owed to service).
3 Assumptions of the Housing Readiness (or treatment first) Model
Referrals between agencies work – they don’t.
Learning to live in congregate settings prepares you for independent living – it doesn’t.
People need to be psychiatrically stable and clean and sober before before they can manage independent apartments.
(Reference – Sam Tsemberis)
Housing First Ends Cycling Through Acute Care Systems
Permanent Supported Housing ends homelessness for people cycling throughout the “institutional circuit”
Stopping this cycle has cost implications – as noted earlier.
4 essential elements of Housing First
Separation of Housing and Services
What do consumers want? Housing, first!
When asked, almost every person who is homeless (w or w/o mi) says they want housing first ;
Will accept immediate access to permanent independent housing; a place of their own
Do not want to participate in psychiatric treatment or attain a period of sobriety as a precondition for housing
Housing First Honors Consumer Choice
Once housed, consumers continue to choose the type, sequence and intensity of services (or no services).
All must agree to weekly visit.
Consumer choice as a continuous process in Housing First programs
Choices include the right to risk; people make mistakes and learn from that experience, dignity of failure.
Continued practice in making choices leads to making the right choices and the experience of success.
PSH (be it CG or other) models – what are some lessons for assisting young people who are homeless?
Provide a safe environment as soon as possible (with few pre-conditions).
Consumer focus and consumer choice (with some clear rules and boundaries).
Stability and consistency.
Separate the housing management and the support.
There are probably others....any suggestions?
A bit about Foyer
Not so much a ‘model’ as an approach (or a philosophy).
Originated in post-war France – help young people adapt/connect with community from rural to urban areas – for jobs and training.
Focus is on education/training/connectedness.
Although different to adult models just described – it is not about PERMANENT housing.
For this group – I agree.....why?
Why transitional housing is ok for younger people
I think transitional housing models can be de-stabilising for adults.
However – for young people it is less about a ‘roof ‘ and more about skills, education, connecting with peers and community.
Get these right and the result can be a stable housing career.
Foyer and the ‘magic mix’
Foyer in the Netherlands refer to the ‘magic mix’.
This about ensuring a good mix of young people – not all young offenders living together; not all troubled young people together. This is not normalising – this is not what communities are made up of.
Foyer – now included in Common Ground NYC
CG NYC have now introduced Foyer for younger people (who may choose afterwards go on to permanently live in CG buildings).
Saw link between young people in foster care graduating to homelessness.
The Foyer program provides educational, employment, and mentoring support in a residential setting to enable young people to create stable, independent lives.
Foyer in Australia
Lots happening (a number of projects in different States).
Foyer Foundation Australia (set up similar to Foyer Federation in UK).
We need to adapt to Australian conditions (just as UK, the Netherlands and USA have done).
Take home messages
Vision to end homelessness – but must plan – include prevention, early intervention and PSH.
PSH – many models. They end homelessness.
Key elements for young people – education and mentoring and connecting with community. Foyer is a good example.