Presidential 2016: Creating Supportive Housing & Breaking Patterns with Pay for Success (New Profit)

Thanks to the persistence of social innovators across the country, every day we see strategies that are working and delivering results in a rapidly changing world. This ongoing blog series will highlight the voices of our Coalition of 70+ social innovators and their solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems, as well as examples of how this powerful work can be transformed into national change. Today we will hear from Deborah SeSantis, President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) about leveraging Pay for Success to create supportive housing, one of the dominating topics of discussion during the 2016 CSH Summit in Chicago.

Supportive housing is an innovative and proven solution to some of communities’ toughest problems. It combines affordable housing with services that help people who face the most complex challenges, such as the chronically homeless and individuals with acute health conditions, mental illness, substance abuse disorders, family instability and trauma, to live with stability, autonomy and dignity. Supportive housing is a significant and long-term investment, and identifying the necessary resources to ensure supply meets demand is an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, innovative financing tools such as Pay for Success can help make a difference.

The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) is a national leader in the supportive housing space that works with communities and special populations such as veterans and low-income families to uncover ways to implement innovative housing solutions even in the most complex environments, so our partners can achieve stability, strength and success for the most vulnerable people in the communities they live. Many of our efforts are focused on “super-utilizers,” people with very high utilization of crisis services, i.e. homeless shelters, emergency rooms, jails, and other public facilities.

Sadly, too many veterans fall into the super-utilizer category. After serving their country, they return to their communities with untreated medical, substance abuse or mental health challenges. Soon they find themselves impoverished, homeless, and getting temporary, often inadequate, attention wherever they can find a port in their personal storms. Supportive housing changes the trajectory of their lives. It provides them with the stability that comes with a permanent home and access to services to treat the problems that likely caused their instability in the first place.

Supportive housing benefits families too – some of whom are facing trauma that threatens to rip them apart. For these families, lack of adequate housing contributed directly to the decision to open child welfare cases, place children in out-of-home care, or delay reunification of children with parents. Reports indicate 50% of children in foster care were removed from homeless or unstably housed families. Supportive housing offers affordable, stable housing and allows families to stay together.

CSH is active in more than a dozen communities designing and implementing supportive housing initiatives through Pay for Success. We leverage this model because at the very core of Pay for Success, performance rises above promises. Under the premise of the Pay for Success model, private and philanthropic organizations and investors form strong partnerships with local or state governments and agree to provide upfront dollars to launch an initiative to combat a societal problem such as homelessness, high rates of incarceration and recidivism, or over-reliance on hospital emergency rooms for routine medical care. Providers must prove their programs or services are working before government pays a dime, and outcomes are rigorously scrutinized by independent evaluators to guarantee results are actually addressing the problem. Pay for Success has support on both sides of the political spectrum because it is based on the common-sense approach that taxpayers should not have to fund a program unless it works.

Supportive housing is a big investment for communities, but we know it can improve outcomes and brings down costs once housing and access to regular and preventative care is achieved. It is for this reason that CSH is exploring the promise of Pay for Success to secure and expand the resources necessary to move family supportive housing forward.

As we elevate supportive housing to serve more vulnerable individuals and families, collaborative advocacy with other Pay for Success advocates, such as America Forward, has been critical. Their efforts are bringing Pay for Success achievements and its potential to the forefront of conversations in Congress, state legislatures, city councils and the 2016 Presidential election cycle.

As the Presidential election cycle pivots to the general election, CSH is thrilled to partner with America Forward to engage candidates and channel support for expanding supportive housing opportunities for the individuals and families that need it. By highlighting what works for vulnerable people and taxpayers, we are shaping the movement for smarter government, and America Forward is helping its Coalition of organizations, including CSH, realize our collective goals of leveraging high-impact, results-driven solutions to transform many more lives across the country.

Read more about how social innovators in the America Forward Coalition, like CSH, are solving America’s biggest problems in communities across the country every day in our briefing book, Moving America Forward: Innovators Lead the Way to Unlocking America’s Potential, and join the conversation. Follow @CHSInfo and @America_Forward, and tell us how Pay for Success and supportive housing have impacted your community using #AFPresidential16.