Supportive Housing Program
The supportive housing program that we administer for HUD provides housing for individuals who are chronically homeless who also have a mental illness. Chronically homeless means someone is homeless for a year or more or having at least 4 episodes of homelessness in the last 3 years. The 15 people in this program were literally living in places not meant for human habitation for over one year. Today they are housed, seeking medical care, trying to find jobs and have become part of society. Case management for program participants assists with reaching goals toward independent living, such as receiving disability benefits, food, health care and obtaining a job.
All clients enrolled in the HUD Supportive Housing Program were encountered through the PATH program, which means people are housed through the process.
When someone is placed into the program, it is in a one-bedroom apartment in Harrison County. Since they typically do not have much in the way of belongings, we fill their apartment with furniture. This furniture may be donated or if we have the funds, we purchase from area furniture stores who are able to work with us on a lower price. Cupboards and the refrigerator are filled with food, dishes, silverware, towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies and small appliances like a toaster and vacuum are supplied.
The transition process can be very stressful for people coming from the streets. They are no longer in their fighting for survival mode, but they also may be losing a routine they have established. Many people form ‘communities’ in the woods and form friendships. It is difficult for some living in the confines of an apartment. Most are able to adjust quite quickly. They are then eager to find activities and jobs to keep them busy and help them to become self reliant.
MHASM uses a Housing First philosophy to get people housed. Housing First is an approach that centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly and then providing services as needed. What differentiates a Housing First approach from other strategies is that there is an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve. Housing First programs share critical elements:
- There is a focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain rental housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited;
- A variety of services are delivered primarily following a housing placement to promote housing stability and individual well-being;
- Such services are time-limited or long-term depending upon individual need; and
- Housing is not contingent on compliance with services – instead, participants must comply with a standard lease agreement and are provided with the services and supports that are necessary to help them do so successfully.
A Housing First approach rests on the belief that helping people access and sustain permanent, affordable housing should be the central goal of our work with people experiencing homelessness. By providing housing assistance, case management and supportive services responsive to individual or family needs (time-limited or long-term) after an individual or family is housed, communities can significantly reduce the time people experience homelessness and prevent further episodes of homelessness. A central tenet of the Housing First approach is that social services to enhance individual and family well-being can be more effective when people are in their own home. (http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/what-is-housing-first)
Good news! Two people in our Supportive Housing Program have received Housing Authority vouchers. This enables them to move into their own apartment and live independently. Mental Health Association of South MS was able to assist with moving and wishes them well in their new place.
Additionally, a participant has been able to move to another state to be with her daughter and grandchildren. After obtaining two degrees from MS Gulf Coast Community College, this veteran has been working and saving her money. She is very excited to be able to enjoy being in her family’s life. From everyone here at MHASM – Congratulations! You did it!