Building housing is an answer to homelessness issues in cities, but it isn’t the only answer. For Community Solutions, a nonprofit focused on ending homelessness, that housing has to be backed by on-site supportive services that those most vulnerable to experiencing homelessness would need. With a new $100 million fund of social impact investment— augmented with federal pandemic funding that could multiply its efforts—the organization is rolling out an innovative approach to quickly and affordably housing the homeless populations.
It starts by reconsidering the wisdom of focusing exclusively on newly built affordable housing, says Dave Foster, director of real estate development at Community Solutions, which is working to end homelessness in more than 80 cities and counties across the United States. New projects, he argues, aren’t always accessible to people vulnerable to homelessness, who often need more than just cheap rent. “The folks who are most able to navigate the system and self-resolve their homelessness are the ones who more often than not end up with the housing,” he says. Those without a credit history, internet access, or stable health, are often left at the back of the line, if they’re even in the line at all.
“You end up bringing a lot of affordable housing online and continuing to house the least vulnerable while the list of most vulnerable continues to grow. And therefore the population experiencing homelessness continues to grow,” Foster says. “So we flipped that model and work from the most vulnerable backward.”