Panel Paper: Denver Pay for Success Initiative: Supportive Housing

Thursday, November 8, 2018
8222 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Gillespie, Devlin Hanson, Mary Cunningham and Michael Pergamit, Urban Institute

A few years ago, Denver’s Crime Prevention and Control Commission (CPCC) recognized that there was a population of “frequent users” - individuals who cycle in and out of jail – who they believed were chronically homeless and suffered from mental health and substance abuse problems. The CPCC did a data match pulling homeless system data, healthcare utilization data, and criminal justice data together for 250 frequent users to see how these individuals touched other systems. They found that in Denver, 250 homeless “frequent users” spent 14,000 nights a year in jail and interacted frequently with other systems, such as detox and emergency care, which combined cost the city $7.3 million per year.

To end this cycle, Denver decided to implement a supportive housing model because evidence shows that supportive housing is effective for chronically homeless adults and that the cost of the program can be offset by its benefits. But programs like this cost money; in this case, $8.6 million in funding came from the city’s first social impact bond—a way for investors to finance social change and get their money back if the project is a success. For Denver’s program, success will be measured over the next three years in improved housing stability and fewer jail stays for the target population. In addition, a larger evaluation is looking at how this intervention impacts the populations interactions with the homelessness system and the healthcare system in Denver.

Together this evaluation will provide an understanding of how supportive housing affects costs in multiple sectors and will aid policymakers in making good funding decisions. Our evaluation of the program’s first 18 months found that the program is meeting early targets: participants are getting housing and staying housed. The final results of this study will help inform policy makers in and outside of Denver about the effectiveness of supportive housing in reducing the costs to multiple sectors, and enable informed decisions about potential program expansion in Denver and program adoption outside of Denver.

Full Paper: