A five-year evaluation of Denver’s Social Impact Bond (SIB) program by the Urban Institute found that the Housing First Initiative is a “remarkable achievement” in reducing chronic homelessness.
Overall, the study found that 79 percent of people treated under the program lived in stable homes. Those referred to SIB spent an average of 560 days more in shelters than people who received other community aid.
In total, the study analyzed the cases of 724 program participants. After a year, 86 percent of people stayed in a stable apartment. After two years, the number was 81 percent. And after three years, over 77 percent of the participants stayed in.
The program – one of the first in the country – also reduced visits to accommodation and police contacts for participants. Over three years, participants spent 40 percent less time in emergency shelters and experienced a 34 percent reduction in police contacts. The arrests of program participants also fell by 40 percent, according to the study.
“Denvers [SIB] The program shows that housing first people with the right support can and will get out of homelessness, stay housed and achieve stability in their lives, “Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement.
“The Denver SIB has offset nearly all supportive housing costs through cost reductions in places like the criminal justice system and emergency care systems. More importantly, the health and quality of life of hundreds of our most vulnerable residents has improved dramatically, and the impact is immeasurable, ”he continued.
Officials launched SIB in 2016 to tackle Denver’s growing homeless population and the city’s growing costs.
The program is a form of “impact investing” designed to inspire private investors to create evidence-based services to solve the homeless. Denver and its SIB investors then mutually agree on performance metrics that the investment must pay back. Successful investments receive a “success bonus” from the city.
According to a Mayor’s Office leaflet, the program received more than $ 8.7 million in private investment and used more than $ 15 million in federal funding to help launch the program. This investment should generate a $ 9.5 million success payment if all agreed metrics are met. It should also save taxpayers more than $ 7 million annually, the mayor’s office claimed.
To date, Denver has paid out more than $ 2.5 million to investors under the SIB program.
While program participants often found successful relocation opportunities, the total number of homeless people in Denver has increased 25 percent since 2017, according to the city’s Point in Time Count. At the same time, the number of people affected by unprotected homelessness doubled between 2019 and 2020. Currently, nearly 4,200 people sleep poorly in Denver on any given night.
“Despite the repeated success of supportive housing models like the Denver SIB, hundreds of people remain chronically homeless on the streets of Denver and in other communities across the country,” the report said, adding, “Expanding investment in supportive housing could result in homelessness End, break the prison cycle and shift resources from the police and other costly emergency services to services that focus on housing, wellbeing and preventing negative outcomes for residents and communities. “
For its part, Denver has slowly developed a multi-pronged approach to tackling homelessness in its jurisdiction.
In 2019, Denver established its Department of Housing Stability, an agency tasked with providing financial assistance to tenants and homeowners and combating homelessness.
During the pandemic, Denver opened two temporarily secure outdoor spaces. These rooms provided services and support to more than 100 people affected by homelessness. Denver also bought nearly 1,000 hotel rooms and built two 24-hour shelters to support the homeless community.
Denver recently opened a secure car park for people affected by vehicle homelessness. Private individuals can park their car in a specific church car park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. The site can comfortably accommodate up to 16 people overnight.
However, the study says services like this will not make the impact they need until they are scaled to meet current needs.
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, there are nearly 600,000 people across the country who are affected by homelessness. This number is expected to increase after the pandemic.
“The biggest challenge remains the extent of demand versus scarcity of resources, especially the community-based resources that support housing stability,” the study concludes.
How can you help
Now is not the time to be silent about homelessness. Denver isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the only city with a social impact bond program. According to Social Finance, a nonprofit impact investing organization, there are more than 25 different SIB programs across the country.
But the scope of our response to homelessness is much smaller than the problem requires. You need to check with your local leaders and lawmakers. Tell them you support creative solutions to the country’s most pressing problem – homelessness. Tell them that you support programs that increase the availability of stable housing for everyone.
Join the Campaign to End Homelessness by supporting the only newsroom dedicated exclusively to homelessness. Our original coverage – published five to seven days a week – can also be found on Apple News and Google News. Through storytelling, education, news, and advocacy, we are transforming the narrative about homelessness.
Invisible People is a non-profit organization. We need the support of friends like you – people who understand that well-written, carefully-researched stories can change their minds on the subject. And that leads to real transformation and political change. Our authors have their fingers on the pulse of the homeless community. Many of them are homeless before or now. They are the real experts who are passionate about ending homelessness. Your support helps us tell the true story of this crisis and solutions that will end it. Your donations help make history by telling the true story of homelessness to inspire concrete action to end homelessness.
Your donation, large or small, will make a real change.