Shelter Partnership and Corporation for Supportive Housing convened a panel on Housing First (HF) at the 2022 Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing Annual Conference on October 28.
The panel, entitled Housing First: In Principle Versus In Practice, discussed the hurdles practitioners face in implementing the California State-required HF model with fidelity. This requirement, set forth in the State Code, mandates permanent supportive housing (PSH) developers to employ an approach that imposes fewer barriers than in the standard rental market and expediently offers housing to people experiencing homelessness, with supportive services provided to help residents stay housed. Housing First is an evidence-based model that, when implemented with fidelity, can permanently end residents’ experiences of homelessness.
State and local financing authorities have incorporated HF as a requirement into their funding programs. There are no clear implementation guidelines from the state, however, which can lead to a disconnect between the Housing First model and a project’s day-to-day operations.
Panelists from leading agencies representing the perspectives of funders, developers, property managers, and lead service providers discussed how Housing First can be more effectively put into action in tenant selection and retention. Lived expert and nonprofit Program Director, Vikki Vickers, who was unable to join in person, provided a powerful video sharing her experiences as a former permanent supportive housing tenant and the benefits of a Housing First approach.
Across the perspectives represented, panelists emphasized that property management, service providers, developers, and funders should work together to ensure close alignment in how they serve tenants. Property management and service providers can further strengthen this alignment by holding regular meetings as a team and participating in trainings on best practices. Strategies for compassionately supporting tenants – such as encouraging people who use substances to use on site so they can quickly get help if needed – are essential for tenant success. The end goal of these strategies is that when residents are struggling with behavioral health or other challenges, the service provider and property management staff can collaborate to find solutions and avoid evictions.
As a regular advisor on Housing First-centered services and property management to the California State Housing and Community Development Department and the Los Angeles County Development Authority, Shelter Partnership was well-positioned to convene and moderate this critical conversation. Ultimately, the guidance shared by panelists will help Shelter Partnership better advocate for robust Housing First implementation guidance at the state and local levels. Our hope is that guidance will lead to stronger housing retention strategies for our most vulnerable neighbors, with the resulting outcome of fewer people ever experiencing homelessness again.
The Policy and Planning team would like to thank Jaline Gilliam at Corporation for Supportive Housing for helping us convene this panel.