By Deborah De Santis President & CEO, CSH
At CSH, we have been working with partners across the country to provide supportive housing – affordable housing with services – to the most vulnerable people in our communities. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are on the front lines of our communities, working day in and day out helping low-income individuals and families. PHAs have been a valuable partner in the effort to expand supportive housing opportunities through partnerships with service providers and by innovatively administering the Housing Choice Voucher program.
Over the past few years at CSH, we have increased our partnerships with PHAs and national member organizations such as the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) and the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), looking at innovative ways to broaden PHA work to new populations, expanding collaborations to include partnering with schools and health centers, and using project-based vouchers to target resources.
We were so encouraged by what was happening in the field and the feedback we were hearing that more PHAs were looking to provide supportive housing that we developed a PHA Toolkit as a guide for working with service providers and partners in the community. The toolkit spotlights some fantastic examples of using the Housing Choice Voucher program to end homelessness for chronically homeless families and individuals.
For example, in Washington, the Tacoma Housing Authority provides housing vouchers and case management to families with children enrolled in a partner school’s kindergarten. The families agree to keep their children enrolled in the school, stay involved in their education, and diligently pursue their own employment and financial goals. And in Illinois, the Housing Authority of Henry County Illinois used project-based vouchers to make 10 apartments newly available to people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness and are over the age of 55.
This great work requires Federal investments, and this year I have seen first-hand the challenges brought about through sequestration. Some PHAs have been forced to cut back because the funding simply isn’t available for them to expand. For example, in Santa Clara County, families and individuals receiving vouchers have seen the impact in their monthly expenses, prompting the county and housing authority to cobble together emergency funds to prevent evictions.
As we wait to see what the budget looks like and whether or not sequestration will continue, we must collectively continue the work of creating and replicating innovative approaches to increase supportive housing opportunities for the people who need it most.
Together we have made great strides, expanding and deepening partnerships with PHAs, service providers, and government agencies at every level – with the end result of housing and better services for more people. We look forward to working with our partners at USICH, HUD, and PHAs across the country to press for the resources and create the supportive housing opportunities that thousands and thousands of people need.