A recent report by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) found that frequent users of public services benefit greatly when provided with stable housing, leading to decreased re-incarcerations as well as decreased medical care and shelter use. The community was also found to benefit, in the form of lower public costs.
The report is a result of a 2008 forum in which service experts from 25 communities came together to discuss how to best provide care to frequent users. While the study did not strictly define frequent users, they were said to be those people who cycle through shelter, correctional, and emergency health care systems, often as an outcome of fragmented systems and low communication between service providers. The resulting paper is a discussion of policies and practices, as well as a compilation of data and description of 14 programs across the nation that coordinate care and provide housing to frequent users and have implemented practice.
One New York program, the Frequent Users Service
Enhancement (FUSE) Initiative, estimated that by providing housing to frequent users and therefore limiting their days spent in jail or in a shelter, a city could save around $3,000 or more per client per year. Another Seattle program found that through its housing program, which provided housing as well as case management for men who struggled with alcohol addiction or mental illness, the city of Seattle saved $4 million over the first year of operation alone.
In addition to monetary savings for government, there are also demonstrated benefits for frequent users themselves. For example, one program in Chicago found that 66% those participating in their Chicago Housing for Health Partnership (CHHP), which moved homeless men and women with a chronic medical condition into homes, reported continued stable housing after 18 months, while only 13% of their “usual care” counterparts reported stable housing. Additionally, there were 29% fewer hospitalizations, 29% fewer hospital stays and 24% fewer emergency department visits compared to those not receiving the additional help from CHHP.
The report ends with the recommendation that advocates continue researching and collecting data on their programs in order to better engage government officials and attract philanthropists who can provide necessary funds for transitioning into a supportive housing model. The report emphasizes how essential it is for service providers to work together to assist frequent users as well as to engage the public and the government to move towards effective policies to best aid those in need.
The full report, as well as a summary of the report can be found at: http://www.csh.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=4501&nodeID=81