What is supportive housing?
Supportive housing, including permanent supporting housing (PSH) and rapid rehousing (RRH), refers to an intervention combining housing subsidies and supportive services like case management, health care services, and connections to benefits.
What is the need for supportive housing in the Bay Area?
A large number of the 35,000 individuals who are homeless have been assessed and prioritized for supportive housing, either rapid rehousing (RRH) or permanent supportive housing (PSH). Across the Bay Area, there are 3,710 RRH beds and 21,222 PSH and other Permanent Housing beds dedicated to people in need of housing and supportive services. However, the number of beds doesn’t tell the full story. Because many of these units are occupied, we must consider the turnover rates of those beds coming available for people in need of housing. Concerning RRH, with rental assistance lasting anywhere from between 3 to 24 months, we estimate a turnover rate for RRH between 50% and 75%. In addition, communities have invested in expanding the availability of RRH, with an average of 500 to 1,000 beds added each year. By contrast, for permanent supportive housing, the average annual turnover rate is 13%, meaning we only have 3,000 to 3,500 of the 21,222 PSH beds actually available in a given year. Taking these estimates together, this means there are approximately 6,000 to 7,500 supportive housing beds available each year to meet the needs of tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness across the Bay Area.
The number of people entering into homeless is growing, including those experiencing homelessness for the first time. In 2019, there were “two to three people entering homeless for every one person who was successfully assisted to move from homelessness to stable housing.”1Regional Action Plan: A Call to Action from the Regional Impact Council, All Home However, as discussed above, there are not enough supportive housing beds to meet this need. In addition, the percentage of people in temporary housing who have successfully exited to a permanent housing destination has decreased since 2017. In 2017, 41% exited to permanent housing.2HUD System Performance Measure 7a. Temporary destinations include emergency shelter, Safe Haven, transitional housing, and rapid rehousing. By 2019, that percent had decreased to 38%.3HUD System Performance Measure 7a. Temporary destinations include emergency shelter, Safe Haven, transitional housing, and rapid rehousing.
What are the bright spots in the Bay Area’s supportive housing landscape?
The following are a selection of impactful supportive housing strategies being used in the Bay Area that could be adopted by other communities.
Flexible Housing Subsidy Pools
Flexible Housing Subsidy Pools public/private partnerships that help subsidize housing and provide flexible assistance to overcome financial barriers to housing that can expedite solutions to homelessness. Flexible funding pools can be used to pay for: application fees; background checks; repairing damages to units beyond normal wear and tear; utility deposits; and other housing related needs.
San Francisco County
Tipping Point Community, the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and Brilliant Corners have a Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, which can be used for supportive services, long-term rental subsidies, and establishing relationships with landlords.
Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties
In 2020, the Veterans Administration launched its Shallow Subsidy initiative, which available to low-income Veterans who live in parts of the country with high populations of homeless individuals and very little available affordable housing. The initiative provides a fixed rental subsidy for up to two years, regardless of any increases in their household income. A number of Bay Area counties, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties received additional VA awards to provide shallow subsidies in their communities.
Establishing partnerships with landlords can lead to smoother processes for tenants moving into supportive housing units.
Alameda County’s Landlord Engagement strategy includes guaranteed monthly payments, 24-hour support to help resolve challenges with tenants, a risk mitigation fund, and a $1000 incentive for landlords new to the program.
Abode Services (Bay Area)
Abode Services has an extensive Landlord Engagement strategy, including financial and technical assistance, as well as a Circle of Community Elevators program recognizing rental housing providers housing more than five Abode households each year.
Partnerships with Housing Authority
Partnerships with housing authorities help connect the most vulnerable to housing resources that can be paired with services provided by other agencies, as well as providing options for individuals ready to “Move On” from permanent supportive housing to less intensive housing interventions.
Through a partnership between the Marin County Continuum of Care and the Marin Housing Authority, 50 Housing Choice Vouchers with on-going case management are designated for households experiencing chronic homelessness each year. Households are identified through the Coordinated Entry System.
The City of Napa Housing Authority is an active partner in the Continuum of Care and Coordinated Entry. The Housing Authority runs a PSH project for homeless individuals, maintains Housing Choice Voucher set-asides for people experiencing homelessness, and prioritizes households ready to transition from permanent supportive housing to less intensive service environments for Housing Choice Vouchers.
San Francisco County
In partnership between City and County of San Francisco and Tipping Point Community, residents of permanent supportive housing are offered Move On support (i.e., Housing Choice Vouchers) when they are ready for a less intensive service environment. Early studies indicate a strong demand for the program.
Other Impactful Approaches
Bay Area communities have also taken other approaches to enhance or strengthen supportive housing.
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County has a dedicated Permanent Supportive Housing Client Engagement Team that conducts outreach to individuals that may be prioritized for permanent supportive housing to help them begin the document readiness process. This helps ensure the clients can be moving into housing quickly when a vacancy arises.
Bay Area Community Services (BACS)’s Housing Co-ops provide care coordination and community-building activities for residents of their organization’s 6-bedroom single-family homes. Participants pay a small amount of rent and typically have complex needs.
A Joint TH/RRH project combines transitional housing with Rapid Rehousing program components in a single project to serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The Matilda Cleveland House, in the city of Oakland, is a congregate housing facility for homeless single parents and their children that offers case management life skills training, and after school programs for children.