Michelle Norris, President of National Church Residences and CSH Board Member, shares with us her views on CSH, supportive housing, and connecting the housing and healthcare dots.
Why did you join the CSH Board?
National Church Residences (NCR) has worked with CSH for years in a variety of ways, including on the renovation of the Imperial Hotel in Atlanta where CSH provided financial assistance through its CDFI. I’ve long admired CSH and was honored to be asked recently to join the board. In the 6 months I’ve been on the board I’ve been even more impressed with caliber of the board, the staff and the vision of CSH.
What excites you most about CSH’s work in supportive housing?
CSH has the strategic initiative to “think bigger” in terms of how to finance supportive housing beyond the traditional means. And in terms of the populations, CSH is expanding the “who” that would benefit from supportive housing models. This puts CSH out front in many industry conversations.
Where do you see the supportive housing industry in 10 years?
I believe that supportive housing will be seen less as a niche or boutique type of housing and more as an accepted housing model – that it becomes a the normal way doing of affordable housing. For instance, in Ohio there is a 10% set aside of supportive housing. I think over the next ten years the line between specific supportive housing and “regular” affordable housing will blur and that many characteristics of supportive housing will be adopted into all affordable housing.
What can other organizations learn from NCR in terms of connecting housing/healthcare and Medicaid?
If you’re going to engage new partners like Medicaid and managed care plans, beware that it takes time, much patience, and a lot of leadership. There is no clear path right now, and it is often easier for people to say “no” to innovation. We have been successful in several early-stage models. But you can’t get from the traditional way of supportive housing to this new way in one step… it takes a lot of baby steps. Patience and perseverance are keys!
One reason we have had some early innovative successes is that National Church Residences has two different divisions – housing and healthcare - that historically ran very separate from each other. As we started to create more home and community services and expanded beyond residential health care, we realized how critical home and community services were to affordable housing as well – especially for our low-income senior housing communities. First our two divisions had to figure out how to talk to each other since we spoke completely different languages. Then, great ideas began to emerge on how to effectively bring together housing and health in more settings.