Collaboratives: Connecting housing and services

Sometimes someone just needs a little help with rent to weather a rough spell or a short-term emergency. But for many people and families, long-term housing success and stability can require connecting with other kinds of services, whether it’s support for physical health or behavioral health issues, employment services, or a long list of other possible services.

Seen from the other side, people receiving medical care, re-entering society after incarceration, or fleeing domestic violence are extremely vulnerable to the worst kinds of outcomes if they don’t have access to decent, safe and affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the systems that serve people who need help with those issues (and others) are often not connected to reliable support for housing and vice versa. That’s where Meyer’s strategy around “Systems Alignment” comes in. In July 2017 we invited proposals to better strengthen connections between affordable housing and various kinds of supportive services, and we are delighted to announce eight multi-year awards totaling over $922,000 for projects across the state:

  • Central Oregon Health Council ($60,000 over two years): To develop, implement and improve a “housing first” approach for people experiencing homelessness and high barriers to housing success in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties
  • Cornerstone Community Housing ($150,000 over two years): To support a collaborative effort to build up the cadre of Traditional Health Workers in Lane County who help people with mental illness access and remain in housing
  • Corporation for Supportive Housing ($130,000 over two years): To support FUSE (Frequent Users Systems Engagement), a multi-agency pilot project focused on identifying housing and serving frequent users of Multnomah County’s health, homeless and criminal justice systems
  • The Klamath Tribes ($150,000 over two years): To develop and implement a housing support program to successfully transition and re-integrate members of the Klamath Tribes after serving time in prison
  • Lane County Health and Human Services ($93,438 over two years): To develop a coordinated community-wide approach to break the cycle of housing instability, homelessness and crisis among people facing complex behavioral health challenges in Lane County
  • Oregon Coast Community Action ($90,000 over two years): To stabilize housing for families in crisis and support the reunification of families involved with state child welfare services in Coos and Curry counties
  • Raphael House ($99,000 over two years): To expand housing stability services that support survivors of domestic violence in Multnomah County
  • Salem Housing Authority ($150,000 over two years): To develop and implement a “housing first” initiative in Salem to house people experiencing homelessness and facing high barriers to housing stability

As you can see, there are strong points of connection in this cohort, with several projects taking on the multi-sided challenges of helping people with some of the highest barriers to long-term housing success, as well as an impressive geographic diversity ranging from the South Coast to Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley and Portland. We’re also delighted to see the Affordable Housing Initiative’s first grant to a tribal nation and expect to continue to build stronger relationships with tribes around the state.

These grants represent Meyer’s second foray into Systems Alignment. In 2015, Meyer awarded nine grants to partners around the state piloting stronger connections between housing and systems such as health care, foster care, early learning and employment.

Our 2017 Request for Proposals (for one- to two-year grants of up to $150,000 total) built on Meyer’s experience with those earlier projects, and we invited submissions on projects with strong potential for broad impact in demonstrating successful, replicable approaches to better aligning affordable housing and related services. By supporting focused collaborative efforts engaging specific issues across multiple systems, Meyer hopes to assist the broader fields of affordable housing and supportive services by:

  • Highlighting replicable models of successful collaboration, identifying specific strategies to promote effective cooperation across systems or service providers;

  • Identifying and addressing significant policy or systems barriers to better coordination; and

  • Documenting the potential to deliver better outcomes (including cost savings or other opportunities to better leverage scarce resources) through effective collaboration.

This all sounds great — who could object to collaboration and coordination? But as we began to learn from the prior round of Systems Alignment grants, there are many obstacles to “alignment.” In a blog post later this year, look for more detail around what we’ve learned from grantees, both on barriers and challenges to greater alignment, as well as some strategies and key lessons about how to drive collaborations toward shared success.

— Michael