Skid Row Housing Trust Uses the Housing First Model

The Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT) provides permanent housing to people who are experiencing chronic homelessness with mental and/or substance use disorders.

Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), based in downtown Los Angeles, California, administers Community Initiative for Integrated Care Services (CIICS), a 2011 grant recipient through SAMHSA’s Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) program.

CIICS aims to recruit the most vulnerable, people experiencing chronic homelessness who have identified themselves as having a mental health and/or substance use disorder. It provides permanent housing within 23 building subsidized by Section 8.

Participants Are Assessed for Housing and Mental Health

SRHT is a strong believer in the Housing First Model, and ensures that each of the resident’s rights to housing is upheld at all levels of services and management. SRHT believes that housing is a public health issue and that humans have the right not to sleep in the streets, not be exposed to the elements, and to have access to appropriate medical treatment. CIICS, using the Housing First Model, works to house all program eligible residents as quickly as possible. Staff assists with the transition, and it is not until after a few weeks of case management sessions that participants are encouraged to access all, or any, of the services available to them.

CIICS, together with their partners, determines whether individuals can be "fast tracked" into housing due to their Vulnerability Index (VI) and their scores on both the mental health screener and the substance use screener. Identified people who meet the criteria are moved quickly into Section 8 housing through the Hilton Prioritization Program. This enables CIICS to house people within a month and without going through a time-consuming background check from the local Housing Authority.

Once people are housed, a simple assessment is conducted according to stipulations from the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Participants then meet with their case manager every week, or as often as possible, to support their transition into permanent housing and to address current needs. Case managers also support participants by assessing their mental health and substance use and referring them to medical and dental services, and legal counsel for accessing public benefits.

CIICS Staff Is Diverse and Trained in Motivational Interviewing

During the first year of the grant, CIICS enrolled 25 participants (the project’s goal is 20 participants every year) who are engaging in the services provided by partner agencies. People who access services are provided with immediate and ongoing weekly support. Others who do not yet want to engage in the available services through CIICS are supported and provided with information that they may need. All providers working with residents have been trained in motivational interviewing and undergo monthly supervision from Dr. Liz D’Amico, a nationally recognized researcher with the RAND Corporation. CIICS is expected to enroll all of their second year participants prior to December 2012 in order to ensure they have access to the provided services for a longer period of time.

The CIICS staff reflects the population they serve: there are three African Americans, three Latino-Hispanics, and three Caucasians. Program staff undergo intensive training in benefits, quality assurance, continuous quality improvement, and continuous meetings with the program evaluator, Dr. Sarah Hunter. They also train with staff from the RAND Corporation. All staff members practice the harm reduction approach, and utilize the transtheoretical model and its stages of change in order to slowly address the issues that clients present. Clients may attend skills workshops to achieve a basic level of computer literacy. Clients also receive training in mindfulness, meditation, art, and vocational education when applicable.

Partnerships Contribute to Programs’ Success

CIICS has developed three strong partnerships for treatment:

  • Los Angeles Christian Health Center
  • Public Counsel Law Center
  • Homeless Health Care Los Angeles

These three agencies, along with SRHT, are the core program providers. CIICS has worked closely with the CABHI grant steering committee and members of the Consortium. The steering committee has developed a unique model to address the multiple pathways that people experiencing homelessness may travel as he or she becomes a thriving member of the community, or society in general. This program has just finished its first year of service, and CIICS is extremely proud of those people have adapted to permanent housing and are beginning to engage in different programs.

Additionally, CIICS credits its success to strong partnerships with several local community agencies, including:

  • Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles Men’s Place (LAMP) Community, New Image Shelter
  • Weingart Transitional Program
  • Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (LA CADA)
  • John Wesley County Hospital (JWCH)
  • Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC)
  • Los Angeles Public Counsel Law Center
  • Department of Mental Health

This article was originally published as a Grantee Spotlight. Learn more about Housing First at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

Publication Year

Connie Campos
Last Updated: 06/27/2019