There are solutions to many of the challenges facing our society today. This isn't just New Year's optimism; it comes from what I see every day. My faith in supportive housing stems from proof that it solves some of the toughest issues and the promising results springing from its many applications.
Occasionally I cite facts and figures because data is vital to proving supportive housing's case. One of its hallmarks is that it is performance and data-driven. But it's the personal stories, independently sought out and verified, of how supportive housing transforms lives and benefits communities that really underpin my enthusiasm and positive outlook.
As 2016 opened, The Atlantic, a well-respected magazine almost 160 years old, featured an in-depth piece on how supportive housing works for people once robbed of hope and facing very complex needs.
In her powerful article, "How to End Homelessness," Alana Semuels spoke directly to current and former supportive housing residents who have achieved what many thought improbable for them - stability and self-sufficiency.
Barry McCrea, Calvin Bennett and Yolanda Jackson were homeless, on the streets for long periods of time. They were surviving as frequent users, super-utilizers of crises care and emergency services cycling through expensive hospital stays, ER visits, jails and other public institutions and services. Forced to seek shelter and help wherever they could find it, they cost taxpayers plenty and themselves their own health and quality of life.
By creating the Frequent User(s) Systems Engagement or FUSE model within supportive housing, CSH changed the paradigm for Barry, Calvin and Yolanda. Affordable rental apartments ended their homelessness. They used these stable homes as platforms to anchor their access to intensive supports such as strong case management, wraparound medical care and behavioral-mental health services, all of which gave them their lives back.
City Lab's take on Semuels' overview sums it up: How Permanent Supportive Housing Really Works - Programs like FUSE can help people who have cycled through jail and emergency rooms get off the streets for good.
Because they, too, see the results and believe in its potential, private organizations such as Capital One and Open Society Foundations have invested in the expansion of FUSE. The federal government, through the prestigious Corporation for National and Community Service, has supported our Social Innovation Fund (SIF) initiative that incorporates the principals of FUSE and has helped over 570 people like Barry, Calvin and Yolanda. Others such as the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, The Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, Melville Charitable Trust, Unihealth Foundation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation (Hearst Foundations), Connecticut Health Foundation, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Henry E. Niles Foundation, Fannie Mae, Kresge Foundation, Aetna Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, L.A. Care, Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center, Fairfield County's Community Foundation, California Hospital Medical Center Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have supported SIF throughout the years.
On top of the interest and good results supportive housing and FUSE are generating, the story just gets better for Yolanda and those who reach her level of independence and want to move on. Because she was ready and no longer needs access to intensive services, she left supportive housing and now lives in a studio apartment in Harlem. Her life is not defined by obstacles and desperation, but filled with possibilities.
Barry, Calvin and Yolanda are fortunate to have had the assistance of committed and successful partners such as Brooklyn Community and Housing Services and Community Access. But when we get right down to it, each of them took control of their destinies and restored their lives. Their successes did not come easy. There were days when it was one step forward, two back. But they stuck to their journey no matter how difficult.
Barry wrote a poem that is found at the end of The Atlantic article. It says so much about the philosophy that propels him, Calvin and Yolanda:
They are always making progress
Though they are very rarely heard
Sometimes I feel I am just like
Those beautiful Hummingbirds.
The hummingbird is a symbol of independence, flexibility and, most importantly, resiliency. We could say the same for supportive housing residents everywhere, many of whom are entering 2016 with the personal stories proving we can overcome and solve our most daunting challenges.