What have we learned about who needs supportive housing and who doesn’t?
Anthony Maione: We have learned many things as a result of the development and successful management of the Housing First Program in Rhode Island. For example, individuals who have been homeless for a long time need a broad and ongoing array of services in order to maintain their stability. The so-called wrap-around service model is an effective antidote to the issues that led to their inability to lead independent lives.
What have we learned from supportive housing’s experience in homelessness and how can this lesson can be applied to other sectors?
Maione: There are solutions to the social problems that affect so many in our community. The permanent supportive housing model demonstrates what can be accomplished when we agree on a goal, align our human and financial resources in order to achieve this goal, define the metrics by which we will measure our progress, and then follow through on the investment of time and resources that are necessary to be successful. With more than 180 formerly homeless people in a safe, affordable home, I’m confident that we can apply this same approach to other problems that seem impossible to solve.
What are the most promising policy opportunities?
Maione: The success of the Housing First Program gives us the roadmap towards ending long-term homelessness in our state. And we can achieve this ambitious goal in a way that respects the dignity of the people we want to save and addresses the unsustainable costs of systematically ignoring them.
Given all the economic constraints, how do you make the case or what is the most compelling argument for supportive housing?
Maione: We have been able to demonstrate that placing individuals in supportive housing produces two critically important results: we save lives and we save money. In other words, people are no longer on the street, which reduces the costs associated with emergency room visits, incarceration and other likely consequences. In Rhode Island, a study commissioned by United Way demonstrated that each supportive housing placement saved approximately $8,000 annually.
In 10 years from now what will supportive housing look like / what role will it play in our community? What is your most radical bold vision?
Maione: In 10 years, all those who have struggled with long-term homelessness are housed. Period.
Anthony Maione is the President & CEO of the United Way of Rhode Island