Innovations in Government Awards


2017 Innovations in American Government Awards Semifinalists

Embedded Expert Driving Social Transformation

City of Houston, TX

In January 2012, Houston’s then-mayor identified ending homelessness among her top priorities. Throughout the next year, the mayor recognized that despite her political will to address this complex issue, the city alone lacked the expertise and resources to achieve large-scale social transformation to reach the goal. To overcome this, the mayor’s office appointed Houston’s first Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives and articulated their vision of marshaling national expertise and resources to identify the best, evidence-based practices to assist and expedite local efforts. By design, the embedded-expert formula harnessed the power of the entire Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) organization, a national nonprofit working in 40 states to create supportive housing (affordable housing with services), which is a proven intervention for ending chronic homelessness. CSH also helps communities build coordinated services delivery systems to meet the needs of vulnerable people and this approach has been particularly valuable in Houston. By June 2015, the mayor’s office was joined by three federal Cabinet Secretaries and other dignitaries to announce an effective end to veteran homelessness in Houston, and by 2016, over 3,500 veteran households were living in stable housing and there has been a 70-percent reduction in chronic homelessness.

Peer Ambassador and Neighborhood Mobilizer Training

CSH is proud to create change, paving the way for people in Illinois with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live in their communities and receive the services that help them thrive.  As a part of our work, we launched this past October our very first Peer Ambassador and Neighborhood Mobilizer Training, where attendees were trained on how to communicate the message that supportive housing offers choice and independence in the community.

Trained Peer Ambassadors are self-advocates who want to talk about why they believe in supportive housing, how it works, and why it needs to be an option that is readily available throughout Illinois.  Neighborhood Mobilizers participate in the same training with an additional focus on how to build awareness and support throughout their communities.

Ten people attended the first training, bringing their experience and enthusiasm for supportive housing to the session!

CSH in Illinois is planning more trainings this spring for self-advocates, families and others in the community who embrace independence and choice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

You can join a team and participate in future trainings that will help ensure supportive housing is an option in your community!  For more information, contact Julie Nelson at or at 312.332.6690 ext 2828.

Multi-System Collaboration to End Youth Homelessness

youth TAYThe State of Minnesota is one of seven jurisdictions that will participate in the fourth cohort of the Multi-System Collaboration Training and Technical Assistance initiative to implement the state plan specific to decreasing homelessness for systems-involved youth. This federal initiative, implemented by the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States, is hosted by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University. CSH will serve as a local project manager in Minnesota for this one year effort, which will include training webinars, project team planning and implementation activities with state partners. The state partners are the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Department of Public Health, Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and Department of Corrections.

The goals of this initiative are to improve leadership alignment, data sharing infrastructure, and to develop a strong action plan based on information gathered from systems (such as criminal justice, child welfare, healthcare and housing) with the focus on preventing and ending conditions that result in youth homelessness.





Housing First Fidelity Training

CSH Makes Housing First Training Available in Ohio 

CSH in Ohio has launched a two-day training session on what it means to practice high fidelity Housing First practices. Using the Housing First Fidelity Index developed by Dennis Watson and Valery Shuman, CSH and local partners explore the “why’s” and “how’s” of effective Housing First practices.

The training is designed through both a system and programmatic lens, complete with exercises and practice tips to help lo236_Vets-Training-1024x768cal systems adhere more closely to the principles that make Housing First an evidence-based practice. The training has been conducted in seven communities so far and will be rolled out in several other locations in early 2017.

Have an interest in learning more?


Please see the sample program schedule below and contact Katie Kitchen at for detailed information. Dates for additional training sessions will be shared soon. Note that there will be some pre-work required in order to make the most of the workshop and to ensure that the training offers tactical strategies for participants to put into practice right away. 

Sample Training Program Schedule

Day One: 10:00-4:30

Housing First Fidelity: Using the Housing First Fidelity Index scale developed by Dennis Watson with the School of Public Health at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Valery Shuman with the Midwest Harm Reduction Institute, participants take a deep dive into what it means to operate a Housing First program to the highest degree of fidelity possible, and when not possible, how to mediate for adaptations. A self-assessment is conducted in advance of the workshop (the results do not need to be shared outside the organization), that helps participants focus in on areas that require more attention. Participants interact with training materials, case studies, and small group work that improve understanding of the 29 metrics found by Watson to be most closely linked to achieving the outcomes associated with high fidelity Housing First.

Day Two: 8:30 – 12:30

Property Management and Service Coordination: from project design to lease up, through to eviction prevention, we discuss the separate and distinct roles of property management and services and the overlapping areas that require thoughtful communication and collaboration. We review eviction prevention strategies and policies that can reduce the impact of negative turnovers.

Speak Up! Seeks Participants & Coaches in Illinois

Speak UpThe Speak Up! program engages individuals with lived experience of homelessness and provides the tools and support necessary to cultivate personal development, advocacy, and leadership skills. Speak Up! focuses on four areas of development: empowerment, leadership, storytelling and engagement.

We are seeking current or former tenants of supportive housing to participate in Speak Up! and help advocate for supportive housing in Illinois and across the country!

CSH is also looking for volunteer “coaches” to work with our participants to hone their story and practice their presentation skills.


  • Informative and interactive training sessions that include expert guest speakers
  • Local advocacy events
  • One-on-one meetings with a coach (outside of training sessions) to enhance storytelling skills by brainstorming and practicing. These meetings are not mandatory, but highly encouraged.
  • For the first half of the program, create a story that is 5-8 minutes long
  • For the second half of the program, shorten the story to 2-3 minutes long and just as effective

305_Speak Up 1_16Benefits: Gaining skills in leadership, community engagement, advocacy, and storytelling. After graduating from a Speak Up! series, participants are frequently asked to speak for other organizations and groups. For example, after an advocate was seen speaking at the CSH 2016 Summit, he was asked to speak at the annual National Alliance to End Homelessness conference the following month. Not only does Speak Up! provide professional development to tenants but, it takes it a step further by offering networking and potential opportunities post-graduation.

When & Where:
The training program will be held from January to July, 2017, and advocates should be able to devote a minimum of 5-6 hours a month. All sessions will take place at the CSH office,  205 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60606, 23rd FL. Bus tickets will be provided to get to and from the site.

Interested? Please view and share our flyers and be in touch!

Speak Up IL Flyer – Supportive Housing Tenants

Speak Up IL Flyer – Coaches

Questions? Contact Ashlen Olmsted at or call 312-332-6690 ext. 2827

Everybody Worries About Me

Everybody Worries About Me

The second e-book in the series of Annie’s stories — Everybody Worries About Me — is now available. This e-book conveys how Annie tackles every-day chores and problems. It explains her concerns and those of her parents and friends, and, most importantly, how she has learned to overcome challenges to take control of her life and live independently. The series of stories about Annie is proudly supported by CSH, the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives, and Annie’s family and friends. View and hear the new e-book in this series by clicking here!

Annie's family

Show Me Healthy Housing Update

The Missouri Foundation for Health pilot program Show Me Healthy Housing continues to expand in size and scope. The effort provides funding to health-related nonprofit agencies for the construction of housing as well as the provision of case management and health care services for their clients. This project is based around the concept of supportive housing, a strategy which is growing in popularity, especially after high-profile successes in places like Utah.


The philosophy of supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with supportive services for individuals with one or more health conditions, is showing great promise in reducing Medicaid costs and improving health outcomes.

For the first time in the Foundation’s history, they have created a program-related investment (PRI) to help fund some of the work of their Show Me Healthy Housing partners. A PRI is a loan (at or below market rate) used to finance projects that might not come to fruition otherwise. PRIs offer certain benefits that regular grantmaking does not. Advantages include helping nonprofits establish credit, offering them experience with financial management, and attracting additional lenders to their projects. Not only that, since the loans are eventually repaid to the lending foundation, the money can be “recycled” to help even more people.

The Foundation’s $1.5 million, five-year PRI was given to the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), a national nonprofit community development financial institution recognized for expertise in supportive housing and lending, to fund pre-development loans for nonprofits building supportive housing. The new Show Me Healthy Housing Loan Fund is combined with approximately $4 million that CSH set aside for work in Missouri.

CSH is an established partner in the Foundation’s supportive housing work, having joined forces to create the inaugural Missouri Supportive Housing Institute in 2015. During the four-month program, four nonprofit organizations met to learn and collaborate as they developed a detailed supportive housing plan to serve their target populations. In May of 2016, one of the participating groups, Gateway Housing First, became the first recipient of funding from the Show Me Healthy Housing Loan Fund.

Funding for Gateway Housing First will go toward the creation of Nathaniel Rivers Place, 32 proposed apartments that will offer permanent, affordable supportive housing for people with disabilities, serious health conditions, and histories of homelessness in St. Louis. It will include five separate buildings – one multi-family building containing 24 units of one- and two-bedroom apartments, common spaces, offices, and space to provide services. Across the street, there will be four duplex-style buildings, containing eight three-bedroom units.

“Both the institute and the loan fund are already helping build capacity in the supportive housing field in our service area,” explained Jean Freeman-Crawford, a program officer at the Foundation. “We worked to establish a pipeline where nonprofits learn how to create supportive housing at the institute, and then can obtain financing for that project from the loan fund. That pre-development financing is a critical need, especially for those nonprofits who have never previously built supportive housing.”

In addition to CSH’s supportive housing investments in our region, we will collaborate with the Foundation again in 2017 with an expanded Missouri Supportive Housing Institute. Thanks to new partnerships in its second year, the institute will accept participants from anywhere in Missouri, not just in our service area. The Institute is tentatively scheduled for March through June of 2017 in Jefferson City. Join our mailing list to keep up with this and other upcoming MFH opportunities.

Michigan Planning to End Homelessness

A state level Interagency Council on Homelessness, created by Governor Rick Snyder’s Executive Order issued in January, 2015, is working to address and end homelessness in Michigan through a new plan of action. The council includes 13 members from across state government and is housed within the michigan homelessMichigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

The Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness Action Plan 2017 – 2019 will be evidence-based, cost effective, in line with the Federal Strategic Plan (Opening Doors) and established with feedback from all major stakeholder groups.

The Homeless Policy Advisory Team (HPAT) is responsible for managing the plan that will be set by the state Interagency Council on Homelessness, in collaboration with local Continuum of Care bodies.

CSH is one of the HPAT member partners and our staff have already shared best practices from around the country along with innovations for Michigan to consider regarding quality supportive housing and strategies to end homelessness. HPAT includes five workgroups that all have openings for partners who wish to be more involved in the process of crafting and responding to a draft of the Action Plan.

John Peterson of CSH chairs the Improve Health and Stability workgroup which has prioritized improving Michigan’s utilization of Medicaid resources in supportive housing and rapid rehousing settings. Lindsey Bishop Gilmore of CSH chairs the Statewide Training Committee and this group will tailor learning sessions requested by the five workgroups and HPAT.

The workgroups are specializing in each area of the plan and involving participants from the ground up to capture expertise of practitioners. All workgroups are inviting new participants to inform and implement the Action Plan. They will meet on September 20, the day before the 2016 Homeless Summit in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

To register for the Homeless Summit being held on September 21-22, 2016, at the Radisson Plaza Suites & Hotel in Kalamazoo, please visit this link:

To learn more about the Action Plan or to join one of the workgroups, please contact John Peterson at or Becky Search of MSHDA at

New E-Book: Living In My Own Home

Family RoomSupportive housing helps many people with different life stories. We at CSH believe that with the right supports, anyone can live independently in their own home in the community of their choice.

We worked with Annie and her support network to create an e-book that demonstrates this very point.

The listener is walked through the personal story of how Annie lives a highly integrated life filled with friends, family, paid work, volunteering, and a host of meaningful and enjoyable activities.

The book is narrated by Vicki Niswander, the proud mother of Annie and also the Director of the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives.

Click here to be transported into the story of Annie. Celebrate her success and visualize how you or someone you know and care about also can access the affordable housing and the right supports to live in the community they choose.

Annie is a gift to us. The ability to tell her life story through this new e-book is made possible by a grant funded by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.