Peoples’ Self-Help Housing
For the majority of the 3,774 reported homeless in SLO County, stable housing is an unattainable goal. The homeless enumeration conducted in January 2011 reported that more than half of the homeless cited disability or illness as the reason for their unemployment, which in turn led to homelessness because they were unable to pay for housing. Similarly, the lack of stable housing exacerbates illness, weakens family stability, and undermines the ability to maintain employment. It can become a vicious cycle.
For those who have been caught up in this cycle of chronic homelessness, the availability of permanent supportive housing is a critical intervention. Identified as a best practice across the nation, such programs provide the essential base that allows people to recover from homelessness and the crises that provoked it. With housing, they are able to more effectively address health, mental health, and addiction disorders that are a barrier to self-sufficiency.
The Supported Housing Program, run by Peoples’ Self-Help Housing (PSHHC) has been a CFSLOC grantee for its case management and social worker support. Grants have been awarded through the Preventive Health Fund, the General Grants Program, and the Dunin Opportunity Fund. Supportive housing is a successful, cost-effective combination of affordable housing with onsite services that help people live more stable, productive lives. PSHHC operates 20 affordable rental apartment complexes, each with a resident manager, throughout SLO County. Licensed Clinical Social Workers and case managers regulary meet with PSHHC residents to assess their household stability and work with them on strategies to maintain their housing.
Is this support a difference?
On a site visit, I met Robert, a resident of PSHHC’s Lachen Tara development in Avila. He described his journey to Peoples’ Self-Help Housing through a referral from CAPSLO’s Prado Day Center. Robert went through an unpleasant divorce in 2005, lost his home and visitation rights to his twin daughters. Because of his disability (brain injury), Robert lives on SSI. He was spending almost all of his funds on legal fees to obtain custody and/or to pay for weekly supervised visitation. He lived in his car and/or on the streets for five years. Case Management services connected him with the Independent Living Resource Center, and helped him find a supervised visitation program that charged only $5/hour vs. the $70/hour he had been paying. The case manager helped him with budgeting and found an attorney for his custody battle.
Robert described his connection with PSHHC, "it's been a long fall and they (PSHHC) caught me". All the troubles he experienced created only confusion for him as he fell further and further behind. He described it as "like being underwater”. He now has an apartment where his daughters may come on a regular basis for supervised visits. His hope is to regain the ability to see his daughters unsupervised. He noted that the supportive housing services "not only helped him, but helped his children keep their father, and their grandparents."