Issued by the Supportive Housing Working Group, Fall/Winter 2011
Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is a successful, cost-effective combination of affordable housing with services that helps people live more stable, productive lives. PSH is a proven, efficient way to address homelessness by helping people who face the most complex challenges, such as mental illness, chemical dependency, and HIV/AIDS, become stably housed.
In the District of Columbia, the Homeless No More initiative is based on using the PSH model to move persons out of shelters, off the streets and into appropriate housing without a time limit on residency and to provide them with the services needed to help them achieve their full potential. Specifically, the District’s Strategic Action Plan to End Homelessness (April, 2010) includes the goal of developing and/or subsidizing at least 2,500 units of Permanent Supportive Housing and commits the District to laying out concrete steps to be taken to meet this and other key initiatives.
To promote these desired results, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) recommends that the production of new Permanent Supportive Housing should be an integrated part of each large scale development project that is supported by the District. These currently include St. Elizabeths, McMillan Reservoir, Walter Reed and the various New Communities. Such PSH units could be operated either in scattered site locations or in communal or congregate settings. PSH can be made a part of such developments without diminishing the marketability of other elements in the projects or jeopardizing their overall economic viability when developed and operated appropriately. The District is fortunate to have several experienced organizations that have been developing and operating successful PSH programs for years.
CNHED challenges the Administration and the Council to find appropriate ways to formally incorporate a requirement for the production of Permanent Supportive Housing into all publicly supported large scale development projects in the District. Such housing is an important element in the overall Continuum of Housing that the District needs to serve all of its residents and to make the District a better place to live for all who call it home.The District should require the production of PSH units by a combination of minimum targeted levels, additional positive consideration for achieving certain levels (such as additional points in a competitive scoring), and direct public financial incentives for both the development and operation of such units. The District should encourage partnerships between for-profit developers and nonprofits that have expertise in providing Permanent Supportive Housing. The Federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process is an example of such an approach. Including the production of PSH units as part of the initial ground rules for the District’s support or approval of large scale developments will allow the public sector and the private development community to plan accordingly and to respond positively without unduly delaying or complicating the overall development process.