Housing lessons from Denver

10.09.18

When a few of our staff and board members laced up their boots to head to Denver in the dead of winter last year, housing our city’s most vulnerable individuals was on their minds.

“We wanted to know Denver’s secret to their housing development success,” said Senior Policy Director Barbara DiPietro about the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). “We wanted to ask them 100 questions about how they are able to build so many buildings AND run a large, comprehensive health center at the same time.”

Because our clients can’t get healthy without housing, we launched a strategic plan calling for more affordable housing development and supportive housing. Since then, we’ve spent a year looking at different housing models like those at CCH. Barbara recently penned a policy brief and hosted a webinar digging into the details. What she found was the inspiration to change the way we do permanent supportive housing in Baltimore.

In 1990, CCH created a property management wing and started developing housing right next door (and, in some cases, on top!) of their health clinics. Today, they have 1,800 housing units in 18 buildings with supportive housing staff who help clients stay healthy and housed. There’s no one secret ingredient to make it all happen—but a few principles, like partnering with developers, starting with smaller projects and building upon them, and involving the community in the development, are a must.

“It’s quite remarkable, but there’s no special recipe, just active advocacy to make it happen,” said Barbara. “CCH encouraged us to keep going with the vision we have, and keep growing it as we evolve further in our experience with housing.”

Thanks to our supportive housing team, we’re helping over 300 clients secure and/or maintain housing through supports like connecting clients to housing vouchers, working with landlords, and managing clients’ rent payments. Recently, we started a collaboration with Episcopal Housing Corporation (EHC) to provide supportive housing services for 12 people experiencing chronic homelessness at Sojourner Place. In similar partnerships with Bon Secours, Enterprise, and the City of Baltimore, we’ll be providing supportive services for almost 50 others throughout the city in the months ahead—and even more are in the pipeline for 2019!

As we move further into the housing arena, we’re continuing to learn and work with other players in the field. Sign up for our quarterly newsletter to see where we go from here!

 

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