AKA: Housing-Based Services Coordination
Over the past two decades, a variety of terms have emerged to describe an array of permanent housing types that are linked in a variety of ways to social services and other support for residents.
The terms used are not only often confusing, but they also may have conflicting meanings in different communities and among funders, government entities, and practitioners. Without a common language to communicate and without a shared understanding of the universality of human need, narrow interpretations of housing linked to services have challenged and often impeded the access of homeless and low-income families to affordable, permanent housing.
The term service-enriched housing is generally used to describe housing linked to services for the low-income population at-large, not necessarily targeted to those who are at risk or with special needs (but able to provide a response to those needs nevertheless). Another perhaps more descriptive term would be “housing-based” services coordination.
Service-enriched housing represents an innovative and systemic change in confronting the long-term needs of families caught in a cycle of chronic poverty.
The provision of “housing-based services coordination” at multi-family housing developments can help to stabilize and support vulnerable families and their children, while at the same time promoting the well-being and improved quality of life of all residents living there. Basic service-enriched housing programs provide crisis intervention, assistance to residents in accessing neighborhood and community resources and services, and, ideally, opportunities for residents to participate in the decision-making process at different levels regarding the place in which they live.
Service-enriched housing provides a viable permanent housing option for homeless and at risk families, including those considered to be “chronically homeless.” While residents in general may have few special needs, residents with special needs or higher intensity needs may also live in service-enriched housing successfully.
Comparatively simple and cost-effective models of service-enriched housing are easy to design, utilizing primarily the resources of the larger community, including existing housing stock. The service-enriched housing approach can help to expand permanent housing options for homeless and vulnerable families with children.
The Key Component: The Addition of a “Services Coordinator”
A social services support system can be incorporated into the ongoing operation and management of rental housing through a variety of single entity or collaborative models. The essential new component is the addition of a services coordinator. In addition to crisis intervention and resource and referral services, the services coordinator helps to develop and support a leadership group, which represents all residents and helps to plan and implement services, programs and activities.
Service-enriched housing recognizes that housing is central to the way people live and how they feel about themselves. While the services provided to residents by a services coordinator are generally individualized and based on need, programs and activities are often targeted to quality of life issues.
A Service Coordinator may be present full-time at one property, and only available by appointment at another. Programs and support may be focused on employment and training opportunities where many welfare-dependent or low-wage earners live and on after-school programs for children somewhere else. An inner-city property housing low-income families with multiple socio-economic needs might benefit from a more service-intensive approach with many different community-based organizations involved, while in another the residents might choose to focus on social and/or enrichment activities and the development of a strong resident leadership group. These efforts focusing on quality of life do not preclude individualized “services coordination” for specific resident needs.
Activities at a Service-Enriched Housing Site in an Inner-City Neighborhood