ABA Banking Journal: A ‘housing first’ approach to homelessness

ABA Banking Journal, September 6, 2019: A ‘housing first’ approach to homelessness

fact sheet prepared by the National Alliance to End Homelessness cites multiple studies showing that this approach can save communities between $20-30,000 per housed person. That’s because they are less likely to use emergency services—such as hospitals, prisons and emergency shelters—than those who are homeless.

New York City’s largest provider of homeless outreach and supportive housing, Breaking Ground, houses approximately 4,000 people each night at one of their facilities and places more than 500 individuals in transitional or permanent housing each year. At ABA’s 2018 Annual Convention in New York, Breaking Ground President and CEO Brenda Rosen joined James Dittbrenner, SVP for community development at Sterling Bank (a $31 billion institution headquartered in Montebello, N.Y.) to discuss Breaking Ground’s highly successful supportive affordable housing model that pairs beautifully designed housing with wraparound services designed to help people maintain their homes for the long-term.

Meanwhile, to better serve the Seattle area’s growing affordable housing and homelessness epidemic, $717 million Sound Community Bank negotiated an ongoing partnership with Plymouth Housing Group (PHG) in 2016. The Seattle-based nonprofit takes a housing-first approach to tackle homelessness, which affects approximately 11,000 people across King County. Through the unique partnership, which includes support for PHG’s overall fundraising efforts, the bank subsidizes the salary of one employee at PHG who assists over 1,000 clients across 14 buildings throughout the city with calculation and payment of rent and other bills. This helps residents regain stability and heal from the trauma of homelessness without the tremendous financial pressure that occurs during the transition out of homelessness.

In June, PHG announced a new capital campaign that aims to raise $75 million to build 800 units of permanent, supportive, housing for people experiencing homelessness. The campaign, which has already passed the halfway point to its fundraising goal, will allow PHG to double the amount of households they serve and establish an endowment for maintain the existing facilities they operate.

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