Our Model

Our Model: How did Homes of Compassion (HOC) develop its model? HOC believes in evidence-based solutions. Home sharing and Permanent supportive housing (PSH) are not new concepts, and they are encouraged by HUD and other federal, state, and local agencies. But HOC combines them in a unique way, and this webpage explains that process (and its model continues to evolve, as we are always learning more, working to perfect the model).

A. Traditional “Home Sharing” Programs

Here are some general websites/information regarding Home Sharing in the U.S. and around WA State, and its use to reduce homelessness:

National Shared Housing Resource Center. (Click on link for site)
NSHRC is a clearinghouse of information for people looking to find a shared housing organization in their community or to help get a program started. This site gives “best practices” for this form of housing, per HUD. A national trade organization can play a vital role in establishing shared housing as an important part of the affordable housing sector as well as in educating funders and policymakers. NSHRC has existed as an umbrella group for shared housing programs for over 20 years. There are over 65 shared housing organizations in the U.S. Most of these programs offer a one-on-one matching service between people who have an extra room in their home with those who are looking for housing. So they tend to have a screening process which would screen out many who have high needs, chronically homeless or have serious mentally illness and need “Permanent Supportive Housing.”HUD case studies on home sharing. (This is under HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research). This webpage give a summary of shared housing across the U.S. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/casestudies/study-09282016-1.html

Shared Housing Services. Shared Housing Services offers low-income individuals and families innovative and affordable solutions in King County, Pierce County, Thurston County and City of Tacoma. They have operated adult home share programs since 1991. It is simular to other home share programs that offer one-on-one matching service between people who have an extra room in their home with those who are looking for housing.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. For someone with a mental health condition, the basic necessity of a stable home can be hard to come by. The lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most powerful barriers to recovery. When this basic need isn’t met, people cycle in and out of homelessness, jails, shelters and hospitals. Having a safe, appropriate place to live can provide stability to allow you to achieve your goals. NAMI has a good web page on various types of housing as it relates to mental health. https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Securing-Stable-Housing

A published 20-page academic article entitled “Is Shared Housing a Way to Reduce Homelessness? The Effect of Household Arrangements on Formerly Homeless People.” The authors are researchers from Yale University and Columbia University. It analyzes data from a 5-year, 18-site demonstration project with over 6,000 formerly homeless individuals as participants. Its conclusion: “Shared housing does not appear to affect its users adversely in most of the dimensions we examined. On the contrary, in some dimensions it appears to help… The idea that sharing reduces psychotic symptomology has intuitive appeal. Isolation leads people to dwell on their own internal thinking, while having contact with others fosters a focus on the interpersonal socialized world.” Published in the Journal of Housing Economics – 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862009/

A 51 page manual Entitled, “Strategies for Scaling Shared Housing: Best Practices, Challenges and Recommendations,” published by the “Affordable Living for the Aging.” This is a PDF download.  https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/download?fid=8109&nid=3890

Website “SPACE10” with many interesting articles about “Shared Living”, and “Co-living” and “Shared House” in modern times and the future.  The website SPACE10 is, “A future living lab on a mission to design a more sustainable and meaningful everyday for many people.” https://medium.com/space10/tagged/sharedliving

In Washington DC “Friendship Place” is a program that employees over 100 people to provide housing and services to homeless. There services include Permanent Supportive Housing using shared housing as well as individual apartments. https://friendshipplace.org/

Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness is an organization with mission to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut. It has a webpage on shared housing https://www.cceh.org/provider-resources/shared-housing/

In summary, some of the differences with how Homes of Compassion (HOC) use of “shared housing” differs from the traditional use of shared housing: (a) HOC leases entire homes from the owner and the owner does not remain in the home, that is, it is not owner occupied; (b) HOC does not sublet the rooms, rather, is signs program agreements with the individuals who participate in the program, most of whom live in a private room and share the common areas of the home. (c) Since the property does not remain owner occupied, HOC does not try to “match” owners with perspective tenants. Rather HOC leases the entire property and manages the entire program; (d) Because the owner is not living at the property, and HOC provides supportive wrap around services to the residents, HOC tends to accept residents (program participants) whom might otherwise be denied in a tradtional one-on-one matching service “shared housing” program; (e) With HOC, the focus is on providing housing and services to the homeless individual, whereas with traditional shared housing, the focus is on the owner who often is elderly, low income, and in need of additional income to be able to continue living in their home.

B. The Oxford House Model for addiction recovery

In 1975 the first Oxford House was opened in Silver SpringMaryland by Paul Molloy. It is community-based approach to addiction recovery, which provides an independent, supportive, and sober living environment. Today there are over 2,500 Oxford Houses in the United States and other countries. In this model, a group of individuals would lease a single-family house and the rent and utilities would be divided up among the residents. There was no time limit members could live at the home, they could live there as long as they desired (as complared to previous programs which were short-term, and participants were discharged back to the street at the end of 3 or 6 months). The house is run democratically with voted officers with specific responsibilities. There are house rules and members can be dismissed by a vote of the membership because of drinking, drug use, or disruptive behavior.

Through leasing a large house and having a system of subletting of the bedrooms, they created a form of afforadable housing. Certain elements of this successful program where copied and used in HOC’s model. Not all the elements were used becuase of the different situation and needs of those with various complex needs, and many who do not have an addiction problem. The operation of a successful Oxford House requires a high level of mental funcationality and cohesion among the group of residents becuase they are essentially organizing themselves finaically and organizaitonally, which would make fidelity to thier model difficult if you had several people with serious mental disabilities. Yet, there are many aspects of their model that are useful and reproducable for a shared housing program. The Oxford House main website is here: https://oxfordhouse.org/userfiles/file/index.php

C. Traditional “Permanent Supportive Housing”

According to National Alliance to End Homelessness, Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is an intervention that combines affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services to address the needs of chronically homeless people. The services are designed to build independent living and tenancy skills and connect people with community-based health care, treatment and employment services.  PSH is generally accompanied by a housing/rental subsidy not exceeding 30% of income. The housing used it typically individual apartments that are provided at an affordable monthly rent using either vouchers or a subsidized building.

PSH has been proven, through many studies, to be one of the most successful methods to end chronic homelessness and to prevent homelessness. (In the Midst of Plenty by Marybeth Shinn and Jill Khadduri, 2020).

There is no single model for permanent supportive housing’s design. Supportive housing may involve the renovation or construction of new housing, set-asides of apartments within privately-owned buildings, or leasing of individual apartments dispersed throughout an area. There are three approaches to operating and providing supportive housing:

  • Purpose-built or single-site housing: Apartment buildings designed to primarily serve tenants who are formerly homeless or who have service needs, with the support services typically available on site.
  • Scattered-site housing: People who are no longer experiencing homelessness lease apartments in private market or general affordable housing apartment buildings using rental subsidies. They can receive services from staff who can visit them in their homes as well as provide services in other settings.
  • Unit set-asides: Affordable housing owners agree to lease a designated number or set of apartments to tenants who have exited homelessness or who have service needs, and partner with supportive services providers to offer assistance to tenants.

Additional reading on PSH can be found at National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the Technical Assistance Collaborative.

But one of the biggest problems is not having enough vouchers or enough affordable housing units available to operate Permanent Supportive Housing. And creating new housing is usually a very expensive, time consuming, and daunting propsition.

D. The “Clubhouse model”

Homes of Compassion uses many elements from the proven “Clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation” which is a community mental health service model that helps people with a history of serious mental illness rejoin society and maintain their place in it; it builds on people’s strengths and provides mutual support, along with professional staff support, for people to receive prevocational work training, educational opportunities, and social support. (Reference: Wikipedia “Clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation“). Fountain House was the first program of its kind. Membership in a club is open to anyone with a serious mental illness, is voluntary, and never expires. In contrast to traditional day-treatment and other day program models, Clubhouse participants are called “members” (as opposed to “patients” or “clients”) and restorative activities focus on their strengths and abilities, not their illness. That is why HOC refers to its residents as “menbers” and not “clients.”

E. Homes of Compassion “Secret Formula”

What Homes of Compassion (HOC) has done is to take the key elements of these four proven interventions, and combined them to make a new scalable model. Using shared housing as a means to “create” affordable housing, and combining it with the wrap-around services of PSH, Homes of Compassion has created a method to inexpensively house and care for the chronically homeless. Additional elements of HOC’s programs that are considered “best practices” include:

  • Choice of Housing: To the extent possible, people can choose the type of housing they prefer. HOC offers rooms in apartments, single family homes, and homes with various levels of rules such as sober homes or low barrier homes. Members have a pallet of choices to choose from.
  • Separation of Housing and Services: Property management and case management functions are separate and distinct functions carried out by different staff within HOC’s organization.
  • Integration in the community: HOC homes are integrated in the local community so their neighbors are people who do not have disabilities or histories of homelessness.
  • Access to Housing: Access to HOC housing is not denied based on requirements that prospective tenants be “ready” for housing. HOC uses a “Housing First” approach.
  • Flexible, Voluntary Services: HOC members are considered “consumers” that are the primary authors of their treatment plans, and the services that they choose under these plans are consumer-driven and chosen from a flexible “menu.”

(These are elements that are recommended by the “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” [SAMHSA] in their Permanent Supportive Housing Evidence-Based Practices Toolkit which is published by the United States Interagency on Homelessness [USICH]. Yet, while Homes of Compassion agrees with most of SAMHSA’s recommendations, it does not agree with their “Rights of Tenancy” position where they suggest residents of the housing to be tenants with a lease that is in compliance with local landlord/tenant law. In a shared housing arrangement, such a position would make it more difficult to ensure the safety of all the residents in a shared home.)

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