November 19, 2019

Homelessness Is Solvable in Denver, and the SIB Is Proving It

A third independent evaluation report by the Urban Institute released this month shows most residents of Denver’s Social Impact Bond (SIB) funded supportive housing program remain housed three years into the innovative housing-first initiative. Due to this continued success, the city has made a third payment to investors of $1.5 million. In total, the city has made $2.5 million in success payments to date. Read on for three key takeaways from Enterprise’s partnership on the SIB.

  1. We need to debunk the myth that people choose to live on the streets. The idea that people who are homeless choose to live on the street perpetuates the false narrative that, unlike other people, they do not need or want stability. Our experience indicates, homelessness is very much a solvable problem, and homelessness is usually not a choice. When we remove barriers and provide long-term housing with voluntary, wraparound services in a way that treats people experiencing homelessness with dignity and provides the resources they need to thrive, people can find and stay in housing.

  2. We need to meet people where they are. One reason for the high take-up rate among Denver SIB participants is the program’s emphasis on Housing First, which doesn’t require participants to meet preconditions to entry, such as sobriety or a commitment to services. In meeting people where they are, the program breaks down barriers to housing. Instead of using housing as a reward for good behavior, housing is offered as a stabilizer.

  3. Building housing isn’t enough. We need to fund services too. Supportive housing is an innovative and proven solution and the Denver SIB is underscoring the model’s success. For this high-need population, providing a roof over someone’s head is not enough to achieve stability. Providers offer one-on-one case management and referral services around the clock to Denver SIB participants, as well as classes ranging from cooking basics to anger management. These supportive housing services help clients get back on their feet and provide them with the foundation necessary to maintain their housing. Adequate service funding is critical to ending the cycle of chronic homelessness.
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