Challenges and opportunities related to the housing of formerly homeless people

Neal Drobenare

Creating enough affordable and accessible housing for all populations in need is a huge challenge. Part of this task is to personalize housing to accommodate subsets of citizens with varying needs. If enough builders and developers, backed by congressional and public support, choose to create these varied homes, many more seniors, families, veterans, people with disabilities and others will move from housing homelessness.

NHPF will be addressing the topic of getting public support for affordable housing for more people at our 6and Annual Symposium, One Paycheck Away from Homelessness: Building Popular Support for Affordable Housing.

The following examples are of homes created and customized to meet the needs of specific populations. Each property has also been accepted and even embraced by members of the local community, which was key to making it a success and a welcome neighbour.

17 Mississippi

CVS Health has invested $9.2 million to partner with the NHPF to provide 41 affordable housing units for families and individuals in a highly sought-after neighborhood in Washington, DC. The investment is part of CVS Health’s commitment to address racial inequities and the social determinants of health in underserved areas. communities.

“When people have access to affordable, high-quality housing, it puts them in a better position to take care of their health and manage chronic disease,” said David Casey, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health.

The resources brought together through this partnership ensure that residents of 17 Mississippi will benefit from new rental housing and amenities in an affordable neighborhood undergoing transformation. The building will offer a mix of one-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments for families and people with demonstrated needs. Nine of the 41 units will provide permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless or in need of mental health support. Nine other units will have preference for income-skilled artists. All units are reserved for residents whose income is at or below 50% of the area’s median income.

To help build community support for the project, the NHPF and its partners solicited and secured endorsement from the ward’s Neighborhood Advisory Board and local councilor Trayon White. The partnership also works with Community Connections, an experienced nonprofit mental health agency, to provide residents with case management support, including life skills, counseling and homelessness services, recovery and treatment, family and youth services and employment resources. The community is under construction and expected to be completed in mid-2023.

CVS Health is also exploring opportunities to expand its national workforce initiatives program in the region to help break the cycle of poverty by providing employment and training services to the community.


This Houston-based supportive housing development funded by the City of Houston, Harris County, Houston Housing Authority, Texas GLO, TDHCA and local partners is a niche effort that has presented many challenges. Housing is being developed for residents facing the most difficult circumstances – chronic homelessness – and for many, both substance abuse and mental health issues, physical health and life preparedness needs. job.

Offering extensive, location-based support services helps these individuals become self-sufficient in a city known for its commitment to ending homelessness in a state that often lacks adequate funding to run support services. .

The key was to spend time with local partners who had unique experience in working with homeless people, a population with very special needs. Their experience has helped shape not only the support services programs, but also the buildings themselves. These skilled local organizations offered their wisdom and experience so that the buildings could be constructed with respect and care. For example, our local partners have encouraged input from future residents themselves on the actual physical design of the property and to help define the culture of the building, which is key to harnessing positive development for the community and supportive of its people. chronically homeless residents.

Magnificat is unique in that 20% of the units are reserved for formerly homeless people currently living in transitional housing or group homes. Therefore, an interesting feature of the project is that 10 of these former homeless residents will have part-time work as part of the Support Services Teams where they will effectively function as “College RAs” but for the chronically homeless. This type of opportunity within a housing community is an important part of future building planning.

Mark Twain

In Chicago, preserving SRO (Single-Room Occupancy) hotels as PSH for special populations is a high priority. And even though Chicago’s mixed-use Gold Coast neighborhood is rapidly diversifying and gentrifying with high-rise residential towers and expensive retail, the community believed in the importance of restoring the magnificent art deco Mark Twain hotel to its former glory. glory and to house those in need in its efficiency apartments.

While many area residents may have wanted to see more multimillion-dollar apartments and condos, early outreach from groups such as the One Northside community organization, the city, HUD, CHA, and the Chicago Community Loan Fund, resulted in positive support for the project. . With the help of local groups and government organizations, the team was able to prevent the displacement of low-income residents and keep the area affordable for the many city employees and others who currently pay well over $30. % of their income for renting (“encumbered rent”). . The preservation of SROs continues to strengthen the fabric that unites Chicago.

Today, the partnership that preserved the award-winning Mark Twain is proud to say that it:

  • Provided 141 units of affordable housing at 60% or less AMI with seven units below 80% AMI for formerly homeless individuals or families, people with disabilities and single people
  • Set aside 20% for homeless housing, 20% for special needs, and up to 10 units available for the state referral network (persons with disabilities or illnesses, including, but not limited to, physical, developmental or mental limitation, substance abuse disorder, HIV/AIDS, or who may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless)
  • Preventing the permanent displacement of existing residents by managing all aspects of temporary relocation to accommodations comparable to The Mark Twain, with most returning to their restored units
  • Maintaining affordability of rents for people with very low incomes over the long term, as well as providing an environment enriched with services, including health and welfare, financial assistance and job training

Neal Drobenare is Senior Vice President of the NHP Foundation.

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