As a social challenge, homelessness feels familiar to most of us.
What are not so familiar in our experience are real, workable solutions to the problem.
For most of us, the word "homeless" conjures up all sorts of negative images of shelter beds, panhandlers, extremely poor individuals with nowhere to go or rest or stop from the daily parade around the city. Homelessness is about cardboard box cities and hunger and addiction and mental illness and near complete instability.
But, there is another side to the story or conversation, an exciting, encouraging, workable, revolutionary dimension that needs to be more fully introduced to our urban centers in the United States. This alternative narrative is being shaped, crafted and created by a new, very encouraging reality or technology: permanent supportive housing.
Over the next several days, I intend to raise questions and provide answers regarding this fascinating approach to actually ending or drastically altering the status of the chronic homeless among us.
1. So, what is permanent supportive housing (PSH)? PSH is permanent, affordable housing coupled with robust supportive services that are available on site to assist formerly homeless residents get what they need and desire to live independently with personal satisfaction and a sense of well-being. In most cases tenants in PSH projects hold a lease to a dwelling, usually an apartment, which ensures their housing stability. Rents do not exceed 1/3 of whatever the tenant's income may be and usually are subsidized. Support services prove most effective when they are offered as an option, with the decision-making left to the tenant as to whether or not to take advantage of available services and benefits. Service providers who do this work best often operate their case management protocols much like concierge services in a fine hotel.
2. What does PSH look like? Usually a great deal like the surrounding neighborhood. Our PSH units are identical to all of the other housing units in their complexes. The PSH units at http://www.citywalkatakard.com/, the Downtown building redeveloped by the Central Dallas CDC, look the same and the building will be operated in the same high-quality manner as other buildings in our central business district neighborhood. As one source puts it, the goal is "to be either the nicest building on the block or 'invisible' to enhance desirability for neighbors and tenants.
More on PSH to follow.
[Thanks to the Corporation for Supportive Housing for the information, framing and background for this post.]