Study: Permanent Supportive Housing Reduces Homelessness

written by naehblog
July 8, 2014

Today's blog post was written by Sarah Mesrobian, research intern with the Alliance's Homelessness Research Institute (HRI).

Over the past decade, federal permanent supportive housing programs (PSH) have grown pretty consistently. From 2007 to 2013 alone, the number of PSH beds has increased 50.7 percent from about 190,000 beds in 2007 to about 280,000 beds in 2013.

At the same time, chronic homelessness decreased by 25.2 percent. While there have been a variety of studies looking at the effectiveness of PSH in ending an individual person’s homelessness there is limited research into the impact PSH has on homelessness in the overall community.

In a recent longitudinal study looking at the time between 2007 and 2012, researchers found that increased investment in PSH decreased the rate of chronic homelessness by 35 percent. The study used a variety of statistical models controlling for a number of community and individual factors to isolate the impact that PSH had in a community.

Overall, the longitudinal study saw decreases in the number of chronically homeless individuals in communities that had more PSH units. A community that adds one PSH unit per 10,000 individuals would have seen a reduction in the rate of chronic homelessness of one percent.

This study shows that the federal policy prioritizing PSH has had the intended impact of reducing chronic homeless. The study also shows that, while increases in PSH units lead to decreases in chronic homelessness, the association is not strong as one would expect.

That suggests that communities may not be targeting the majority of their PSH units to chronically homeless individuals. At the end of 2012, only 27 percent of PSH had been designated exclusively for chronically homeless individuals.

These findings show PSH is ending chronic homelessness, not just on an individual level, but on a community level. Communities should continue to increase investment in PSH. Additionally, communities should work hard to target PSH resources- both new units and turnover units-to the most vulnerable chronically homeless persons and households in order to make the most of the resource.