1. Is it possible to end homelessness? How do we do it?
Yes! Our Path Home’s goal is to achieve net zero – meaning that although people may still experience homelessness, the instance is rare, brief and one time. There are communities in the U.S. that have effectively ended homelessness for specific populations, such as veterans or those experiencing chronic homelessness. Because the number of people and families experiencing homelessness in Ada County is relatively low, our community can end homelessness before it becomes a seemingly insurmountable problem like we’ve seen in other cities. Especially in the last 5 years, Our Path Home has made significant advancements in strengthening its collaboration across all homeless service providers and has successfully created two site-based Housing First projects, New Path and Valor Pointe.
Key elements of ending homelessness in Ada County are:
- Collaboration. Upholding a broad team of agencies, organizations, housing providers and community members who are working together to solve homelessness. Partnership connects people to home.
- Data-Driven Decisions. Following the evidence-base and staying current on best approaches and practices, including Housing First and problem-solving at the side doors to the system. Collecting real-time information about homelessness to enable us to coordinate and appropriately respond.
- Achievable Housing. Providing enough homes that are affordable to individuals and families at different income levels. Providing support services to help individuals and families in staying safe, healthy and housed.
- Crisis Response. Maintaining an adequate level of low-barrier emergency shelters that are Housing First focused and emphasize rapid exits to permanent housing.
For more information on homelessness, visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
2. What is the plan to address homelessness?
In 2020, Our Path Home pivoted to plan for, respond to, and prevent COVID-19 among Ada County’s homeless population while also continuing to push forward on four strategic initiatives:
- End Family Homelessness by 2025. Our Path Home has launched a Campaign to End Family Homelessness and a cabinet made up of community leaders is charged with raising $8.4 million toward the effort.
- Reduce First-Time Homelessness. Our Path Home is leveraging current rental assistance dollars from the federal government to keep people housed. A working group that has met at least monthly for the last year is ready to launch a new Housing Resilience Hotline in July 2021.
- Scale Supportive Housing. Our Path Home is currently working with the Corporation for Supportive Housing to create a supportive housing plan that will serve as a roadmap to identify and incentivize existing units and the financing of new units of supportive housing over a five-year investment period, including a financial model that will reflect different financing and development scenarios to meet the need.
- Empower the Partnership. Our Path Home works closely with local governments, quasi-governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, both hospital systems, the school districts and our emergency shelter and housing providers to maximize each other’s resources and areas of expertise and to ensure funds are put to their highest and best use.
3. If Our Path Home follows a Housing First approach, how does shelter fit in?
Emergency shelter is intended to provide a safe place for individuals and families to stay while experiencing a housing crisis. Best practices in emergency shelter services include:
- A focus on diversion, meaning working with people and families right away to divert them from having to use the shelter in the first place.
- A concerted effort on rapid exit, housing focused services.
Our Path Home relies on emergency shelters to manage the night by night crisis while the partnership works to re-house individuals and families using a Housing First approach.
4. How many people does Our Path Home serve?
Our Path Home has the capacity to serve approximately 1,100 households per year: roughly 500 that are experiencing homelessness are already in a supportive housing program and about 600 that are at-risk of experiencing homelessness. Note: this capacity is actively evolving as additional federal funds become available related to COVID relief bills.
Particularly because of limited units affordable and accessible to households experiencing homelessness, many adult-only households and families with children languish on the Our Path Home CONNECT queue, sleeping in emergency shelter or on the street.
About 305 of the 500 households Our Path Home provides supportive housing to each year are already in permanent supportive housing units; these units do not often experience turnover. Once a tenant is leased-up in a permanent supportive housing unit, Our Path Home carries the cost of on-going rental assistance and support services and, therefore, must expand program capacity to serve more households.
5. How many people are on the Our Path Home CONNECT queue waiting to be housed?
Currently, Our Path Home CONNECT has more than 650 households on the queue: ~300 families and ~350 adult-only households. This number fluctuates almost daily. In 2020, an average of 832 households (1,473 clients) were active on the queue at any given time.