Solutions to End Homelessness Include Permanent Supportive Housing
By Meaghan Vlkovic, VP & Market Leader Southeast, Enterprise Community Partners
Across America there are more than half a million people experiencing homelessness on any given night; ten thousand live in Georgia. The reality is that Atlanta, home to one-third of Georgia’s homeless population, does not have the housing infrastructure necessary to end chronic homelessness. But concerted coordination among the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to fund permanent supportive housing offers hope for a different future.
Supportive housing combines affordable housing with a rent subsidy/voucher plus wrap-around services like job training, financial resources and mental health treatment, and the goal is to keep people housed over the long term and end the cycle of chronic homelessness. According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, studies have shown that supportive housing not only resolves homelessness and increases housing stability, but also improves health and lowers public costs by reducing the use of publicly funded crisis services including shelters, hospitals, and more.
Current pathways to creating supportive housing include single site, scattered sites and unit set asides.
Single site apartment buildings are designed and purposely built to house and provide services to people experiencing homelessness. Phoenix House is one of a few permanent supportive housing properties in Atlanta.
Scattered site housing is where an individual or a family receives rental support and services to lease an apartment in the private market. Open Doors is a community partnership of real estate experts, developers, building owners, nonprofit service providers and funders dedicated to finding homes for Atlanta’s homeless who need affordable housing providing support to remain stably housed.
Unit set asides are when a property owner agrees to lease a designated number of rental units to people exited homelessness while partnering with supportive service providers. Atlanta’s HomeFirst is one example: it leverages public and private partnerships and funding to enable developers creating affordable homes to set aside units for supportive housing. The current pipeline of projects participating in this program exceeds the original goal of 550 units, a sign of success and need for additional resources to scale this as a strategy to end homelessness.
Partners for HOME, Atlanta’s Continuum of Care provider, has created strategies to house Atlanta’s homeless population utilizing all of these pathways. Its homeless response and recovery campaign known as LIFT has made great strides in meeting its goal to safely house 2,000 homeless households. Under the LIFT campaign Atlanta is modeling public, private and philanthropic coordination as Partners for HOME works with more than a dozen service partners providing housing assistance, meals, street outreach and case management, and with city, state and county public partners providing funds, referrals, medical assistance and rental vouchers to build a system to end chronic, veteran, family and youth homelessness.
With eviction filings rising and rental assistance funding remaining a challenge, the negative impacts of the COVID pandemic have exacerbated the need for communities to ensure measures are in place to create and maintain housing stability for all. Enterprise Community Partners recently released the Roadmap to Prevent Eviction and Promote Housing Stability, a resource cataloguing a wide range of strategies that offers policymakers, practitioners and advocates a broad overview of available tools and guidance on when to use them.
Partners for HOME offers ways for community members to engage and help to end homelessness in the City of Atlanta, including being a point in time count volunteer on January 24th, donating to support the effort or engaging as a landlord committed to helping end homelessness in Atlanta. Find out more on how you can get involved here.