The term “service-enriched housing” is generally used to describe affordable rental housing for the low-income population at-large, not necessarily targeted to those who are at risk or with special needs, but nevertheless able to monitor and support the needs of the more vulnerable residents.
An alternative to Permanent Supportive Housing
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, narrow interpretations of housing linked to services have challenged and often impeded the access to housing for homeless families and individuals, particularly those without “special needs.”
Service-enriched housing provides a viable permanent housing option for homeless and at risk families and individuals, including those considered “chronically homeless.” While residents in general may have few special needs, residents with special needs or higher intensity services needs may also live in service-enriched housing successfully.
The provision of “housing-based services coordination” at rental housing properties can help to stabilize and support vulnerable families and individuals, while at the same time promoting the well-being and improved quality of life for all residents.
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.
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, services and resources.
The service-enriched housing approach can help to expand permanent housing options for homeless and vulnerable families, individuals, the disabled, the elderly, transition-aged youth, and anyone with special needs.
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.
A Services Coordinator may be present full-time at one property, and only available by appointment at another— unless a crisis occurs that requires intervention.
Programs and support may be focused on employment and training opportunities at one property or on after-school programs for children for another.
An inner-city property housing low-income families with multiple socioeconomic 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.
These efforts focusing on quality of life do not preclude individualized “services coordination” for specific resident needs.