This report presents the findings and recommendations from an analysis of permanent supportive housing (PSH) in Austin. This analysis suggests that PSH in Austin is providing permanent housing and support services to members of highly complex target populations. The initial data on service utilization suggest that PSH may increase client stability, decrease client use of the Downtown Austin Community Court and jails, and decrease client use of emergency departments and hospitalization. This study focused on the individuals who were in HMIS PSH at some point between January 1, 2010 and April 16, 2014 and who had at least 365 cumulative days in PSH by the end of reporting period.1 Ongoing analysis is needed to examine these
trends, to look for subgroup variability, and to ensure that the observed differences are an outcome of PSH and not due to other factors.
While PSH created since 2010 fell short of meeting the Austin City Council’s specific numerical targets by June 2014, it successfully housed chronically homeless veterans, single adults, men and women diagnosed with mental illness, substance abuse issues and other disabilities, and a
few families headed by chronically homeless adults. Seventeen percent of the adults in the PSH Study Group2 had been booked into jail for a new arrest in the year prior to housing and nearly one-third of the City PSH Strategy Subset3 were frequent shelter users prior to housing.
Most clients housed since 2010 did have some encounters with public systems; the Strategy called for 225 to be “frequent users,” of jail, healthcare, community court and shelters. Based on new community definitions of frequent users, of the 160 persons in the City PSH Strategy Subset housed and subject to this analysis the following were considered frequent users:
- 18 frequent users of hospital emergency department visits/hospitalization (5 emergency department or inpatient hospital contacts in any 3 month period)
- 5 frequent users of Downtown Austin Community Court (25 cases or more) and
- 49 frequent users of emergency shelter (slept at least 50 percent of nights in shelter
during the six months prior to PSH entry)
Thus, “frequent users” are being housed in PSH, but not at the level envisioned by the 2010 Strategy. Based on more recent data, there were 90 frequent users of the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) who recently used the emergency shelter and an additional 165 households who were recent frequent shelter users with a self-reported disability. These households likely need PSH. Additional homeless individuals accessing hospitals, EMS and jails would increase the estimated need of PSH among frequent users. At the time the Strategy was announced, PSH programs were not required to adopt the Strategy nor agree in writing to prioritize frequent users. Current ECHO work to implement a single Coordinated Assessment
and PSH Prioritization will improve the service providers’ ability to successfully target these frequent users. Understandably, to house this population, units must be available and accessible. Frequent users often face barriers to housing, i.e. criminal history, debt, lack of income, poor rental history, sobriety requirements, etc. Housing First PSH takes these barriers into account and applicants are seldom rejected solely on the basis of poor credit or financial history, poor absent rental history, criminal convictions, or any other behaviors that are generally held to indicate a lack of “housing readiness.” A shortage of Housing First PSH units in Austin hinders the community’s ability to implement this frequent user PSH strategy. The City’s call for a Request for Proposals to develop Housing First PSH, providing funds for both capital costs and support services, should develop housing for these frequent users. View Full Report