Jun 23, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by Erin Hagan
The best way to break the harmful homelessness-jail cycle? Keep people housed, first; then quickly provide the supportive services they need to thrive.
Maria* is finally starting to feel at home. After living on the streets for eight years and a brief stint in a halfway house, she now has a permanent home in the Sanderson Apartments in south Denver. “I love my life, and I love myself, and I love my family,” she said, beaming. “And I found myself, found out who I am, where I belong.” The Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative (Denver SIB) helped her find this stability.
There are many common myths about how to end homelessness. At RWJF’s Evidence for Action program, we wanted to test what truly works. We funded Sarah Gillespie and Dr. Devlin Hanson at the Urban Institute to conduct an evaluation of the Denver SIB program.
What we learned is that supportive housing has several benefits. It can help end the homelessness-to-jail cycle, free up public resources for other priorities, and ultimately, it creates stability for people experiencing homelessness.
Supportive housing seems to be especially beneficial for people with frequent interactions with the criminal justice system, and leads to better health outcomes for individuals and communities. In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has included reducing incarceration among 35 illustrative measures to track progress toward building a Culture of Health in America.