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TOOLS FOR ENDING HOMELESSNESS: Permanent Supportive Housing

(NOTE: This is the first in an occasional series addressing some of the resources available to help make homelessness in the District rare, brief, and non-recurring.)

As the name implies, Permanent Supportive Housing offers a long-term solution for people experiencing chronic homelessness as well as a disabling condition. In the District, an individual or family who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years is eligible to apply for the PSH program.

Chronically homeless individuals and families who are living on the streets, in shelters, and other institutions begin with an assessment by highly-trained staff of DC’s Departments of Human Services and Behavioral Health. They are then placed into long-term housing units. The key to ensuring individuals and families can remain in housing, and achieve their highest level of stability and self-sufficiency, is effective case management. Case managers also connect people to needed services and resources.

Supportive housing is an evidence-based housing intervention. Research has 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, psychiatric centers, jails, and prisons.

There is no single model for supportive housing. Cities may renovate or build new housing, set aside apartments within privately-owned buildings, or lease individual apartments or houses scattered throughout an area.

In most cases, tenants pay 30 percent of their incomes. Rents are then subsidized by the District using either federal or local funds.

Even though we know permanent supportive housing works, the District still faces a shortage of available units. If you own a rental unit – either a house or apartment – you may be able to participate in DC’s Permanent Supportive Housing program. For more information, contact the Department of Human Services at (202) 671-4200.

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