Creating Housing That Matters Through Supportive Services: Q&A with Angela Eicholtz
Dakota’s Development Director, Angela Eicholtz has several years of experience implementing crucial supportive services into affordable housing developments. Supportive service programs are an integral part of Dakota’s business and core values, so she agreed to an interview to shed some light on these services and their importance to Dakota Partners.
- What are supportive services?
Supportive Housing combines affordable housing with intensive coordinated services to help residents thrive. Efforts are often targeted toward the most vulnerable populations, such as the formerly homeless, those struggling with mental illness or addiction, and trauma victims.
A central part of many supportive service plans is case management. Case managers are responsible for working with clients to set goals and connect them to resources. For example, if a formerly homeless resident was struggling with a chronic health condition, a case manager might help them obtain a social security number so they can apply for Medicaid or organize transportation to and from the clinic. A case manager is there to reduce these barriers and help residents thrive.
- Why are they important?
It is well-documented that supportive housing improves housing stability and health outcomes. Dakota is committed to “Creating Housing That Matters,” and this is one component of that.
- Is there a cost associated? Who absorbs that cost? Is there any data on ROI or cost/benefit?
Yes, there is an operating cost associated with these services. There is the cost of direct and indirect support salaries (i.e., case manager). Sometimes there are overhead expenses associated with on-site office space. There also may be costs associated with on-site security, reporting requirements and administrative functions, travel, contractual services, or educational material just to name a few.
In some states, these costs are allowed to be rolled into the operating budget of a LIHTC funded building. In other states, like NY, operating costs associated with supportive services must be separately funded. In NY these costs are usually covered through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) but they can also be covered by other grants and initiatives such as CoC funding.
Yes. There is a great deal of research demonstrating supportive services have enormous benefits such as reduced evictions, increased on-time rent payments, reduced emergency room visits, reduced incarceration rates, and improve health outcomes. For years policymakers have struggled to quantify the mix-match between the cost bearers and recipients. I don’t think the industry has a clear answer to the problem yet but we’re certainly moving in the right direction.
- Describe some innovative supportive services Dakota has implemented or plans to implement in the future.
For one of our upcoming projects, Dakota is partnering with an experienced social service provider to give supportive services to survivors of domestic violence. In addition to safe and affordable housing, residents will have access to on-site case management where they can work in partnership with the provider to develop a comprehensive care plan. Survivors will have access, free of charge, to counseling, safety planning, advocacy, information, and referrals, help navigating the criminal justice system, support to achieve education/employment goals, linkages to childcare, medical and legal services.
A wide body of research has shown that an effective response to family homelessness includes affordable housing, housing families quickly, minimizing shelter stays and providing case management to build economic self-sufficiency. The presence of trauma history, reported in more than 90% of homeless mothers, actually predicts future housing instability (National Research Center’s 2014 homeless SHiFT study). Without properly addressing the impact of trauma, families are at continued risk of repeat homelessness and/or abuse.
The proposed Development directly addresses this issue by providing 20 units of permanent supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence with an experienced service provider offering trauma-informed care. The goal of this partnership is to ensure the safety of tenants and to provide a continuum of support services that recognize and address the underlying trauma of domestic violence in order for survivors to safely maintain community living. Because of life challenges due to domestic violence, many survivors of domestic violence require support services to become and remain stably housed. These support services are of particular importance as survivors of domestic violence are vulnerable to returning to an abusive relationship, or choosing other unsafe living arrangements, putting themselves and their children at risk when they cannot find a viable path to maintain independent living on their own.
- What is your role at Dakota/background with supportive services?
My role as Development Director is to follow a project from inception to completion – including supportive services. This involves identifying non-profit organizations that provide supportive services and building relationships with them, working with our partners to develop goals and appropriate rent plans, assisting with grants for operating funding, and coordinating during the lease up period.