Minnesota: Supportive Housing Improves Lives of Formerly Homeless Individuals and Families

National Center on Family Homelessness for Hearth Connection

March 2009

An evaluation of the Minnesota Supportive Housing and Managed Care Pilot found that supportive housing significantly improved residential stability and decreased mental health symptoms and alcohol and drug use. The program engaged participants with highly complex needs, averaging five years of homelessness prior to enrollment.  Participants’ homelessness was exacerbated by medical problems, mental illness, chemical dependency, traumatic experiences, and for some, children with special needs. Pilot participants cost publicly funded systems at least $6,290 per person per year, on average, in mainstream services during the two years before enrollment.  (Single adults used far more publicly- funded services than adults and/or children in families.)  They also were enrolled 59 percent of the time in income support programs, and 72 percent of the time in health care programs.   The Pilot created an intensive service model featuring low caseloads (fewer than 10 households per staff member) and a range of in-house, specialty service providers, including housing specialists, nurses and child development workers.  After 18 months, participants had significantly improved residential stability, experienced fewer mental health symptoms, and use of alcohol and/or drugs declined as well. Participants also reported a greater sense of safety and improved quality of life.  Participants did not show evidence of improved physical health functioning after 18 months. The Pilot had a small impact on the overall level of mainstream service costs for participants, relative to the comparison group, and caused desirable shifts in the types of mainstream services used.

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