Our mission at Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation (ABC Housing) is to provide quality, affordable housing, supportive services for persons with behavioral health needs and others with similar housing challenges in Arizona. We want to help our community end homelessness.
The economic burden of the homeless population falls mostly onto tax payers. If not staying in shelter, they often engage in urban camping, over utilize the emergency room for all medical care and overpopulate our correctional facilities due to the criminalization of their homelessness or mental health issues. Other barriers facing the homeless when searching for housing are criminal history, bad credit history, past evictions, physical disabilities, literacy issues and lack of transportation.
Housing the homeless, and keeping them housed, not only saves lives, but it is more cost effective than leaving them on the streets. A study* in Charlotte, NC in 2014 found drastic savings in health care costs and incarceration when they housed chronically homeless adults. The report cited a 78% reduction in emergency room visits and 84% fewer days spent in jail. Another study* in Los Angeles, CA in 2009 found that the typical public cost for residents in supportive housing was $605 a month, while for the homeless person, the public cost was $2,897 per month.
The Housing Advocate specializes in working with program participants that have not been able to secure a unit on their own. The Housing Advocate’s goal is to reduce the amount of time the program participant is living on the streets, or in a shelter, while searching for a unit. They work with program participants who have been out searching for approximately 45 days or more and need that additional support. The Housing Advocate can assist a participant who has been searching less than that, if they are dealing with multiple barriers at the same time.
Some of the Housing Advocate’s responsibilities include negotiating with current landlords on behalf of our program participants. Providing transportation to “shop” for a unit in the community of the program participant’s choice. Advocating for immediate coordination of care with supportive service providers (i.e. case management) upon move in to ensure long term success. Locate new properties and build relationships with those potential landlords, explaining clearly the guidelines and benefits of working with our housing program. Educating the community is vital in order to expand our inventory of properties throughout Maricopa County.
We estimate that there are approximately 200 program participants actively searching for a unit every month. However, in the Phoenix metro area there is only a 4% vacancy rate. We have seen a continual increase in market rent amounts of over 8% per quarter, but there are only approximately 21 affordable units per 100 participants who need them. Nevertheless, against these odds, our Housing Advocates are reducing search times by half for our most vulnerable program participants. (See graph below.)
Collaborating with property owners, investors, property management companies, stakeholders such as the Arizona Department of Housing and local municipalities, supportive service agencies, supportive housing agencies, and our community as a whole, we can end homelessness in Arizona.