Supportive Housing Improves Addiction Recovery

Guest Blog by Charles J. Neighbors, PhD, MBA


Charles J. Neighbors, PhD, MBA, Director, Health Services Research, CASAColumbia

In December 2015, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) released a paper on supportive housing as a component of a strategy to manage the heroin crisis for the chronically homeless. CSH estimates there is a need for over 30,000 new supportive housing units across New York State to reverse the ever-increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness. About 35-40% of chronically homeless people suffer from severe substance use disorders.

New York communities bear substantial public costs for individuals experiencing substance use disorders and homelessness. The recent rise in opioid use has increased this strain. Finding a way to engage homeless persons for whom substances are a barrier to housing is critical to solving the problem. One potential approach is supportive housing—housing linked with social services- which provides the support that the chronically homeless need to stay in their homes.

Research by our Center suggests that supportive housing is an effective and cost-efficient intervention for homeless individuals struggling with addiction. We evaluated a program in New York State and City that offered supportive housing to individuals not willing to commit to abstinence. The program was successful in reducing use of shelters, jail and medical services. The reductions in crisis service use were associated with considerable savings, which offset the cost of the housing program.

Recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made supportive housing a cornerstone of his State of the State address, committing to creating 20,000 new units statewide over the next 15 years. These units are in addition to the 15,000 Mayor Bill de Blasio announced for New York City in November. These plans exemplify a significant commitment to addressing the longstanding problem of chronic homelessness and severe substance use disorders, and benefitting individuals and the community.

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