Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Inc.

A Place to Live: A Housing Solution for Homelessness

Lead Organization

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Inc.

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

http://www.mhsa.net

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The problem we will solve is the homelessness of individuals with disabling conditions who are living in emergency shelters, outdoors, or in encampments throughout Massachusetts. This population, because of their complex disabilities, is often marginalized by mainstream systems of care. Because of their homelessness, their medical and behavioral health issues are exacerbated, and their life expectancy decreased. On any given night, there are 1,500 to 2,000 such people in Massachusetts, creating excessive costs across all systems of care.Our solution is to construct modular efficiency housing that is affordable, accessible, replicable and sustainable. We will also bring to scale the service models that have proven most effective in providing ongoing support to people once they are housed.Our solution will end homelessness for our poorest and most vulnerable neighbors by providing a safe and decent home where they can manage and improve their health and thrive in a supportive community.

Problem Statement

The challenge before us is to develop a housing approach to homelessness that will end Massachusetts’ reliance on costly emergency resources. While the primary population impacted is extremely low-income people with disabling conditions who are living in shelter or outdoors, homelessness impacts us all. We all pay for the cost of shelters, and for homeless people’s disproportionate use of emergency rooms, acute care, and public safety facilities. However, once someone has housing with supportive services, their life can finally stabilize. The need for expensive state-funded emergency services goes down dramatically. This problem exists in the current environment because of the large-scale loss of affordable housing for poor and marginalized people. And it is exacerbated by the ongoing lack of a systemic approach within Massachusetts to take on the challenge of successfully and appropriately housing those living with serious mental illness and substance use disorders who may not be able to access or remain in housing programs that require strict compliance with rules that go beyond what should be required of tenants. The smallest change that can leverage the greatest impact is when a person with multiple disabling conditions who has been homeless for years is finally housed. It is difficult to overstate the transformative impact of having a permanent home, from which individuals are able to utilize mainstream health care resources in a far more effective and less expensive manner, and where the extreme daily stress of not knowing where they will sleep, find food, or find safety is relieved.

Solution Overview

To address the problem of homelessness, we are bringing together regional housing developers to create low-cost modular efficiency housing units, and human service agencies to provide low-barrier services to help people thrive once they move into their new homes. This will represent the first statewide uniform attempt to address the housing and service needs of homeless persons with disabilities. The cost-effective permanent supportive housing created by this collaborative is the first step toward dismantling the costly and ineffective use of emergency resources to address homelessness that Massachusetts has relied upon for decades. There will be broad and measurable impact on the universe of homeless persons across the geography of Massachusetts. Over a five-year period and beyond, hospital utilization will decrease; utilization of shelter and emergency resources will decrease; public health costs for this population will decrease; and homeless encampments will be eradicated. The primary beneficiaries of this collaboration will be disabled people experiencing homelessness with the outcomes being successful tenancy, improved utilization of health care resources and improved quality of life. Once this population is housed, finding a meal and a place to sleep will no longer take precedence for them over attending to health concerns or accomplishing life goals. When medicine can be safely stored and healthy food is in the refrigerator, when goals can be self-determined, and when the incredible stress and danger of being homeless has ended, the outcomes will be happier and healthier lives for our poorest and most disabled neighbors.

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Project Funders

  • Clipper Ship Foundation

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