Virginia Supportive Housing Project Proves Powerful

Virginia agencies work to end chronic homelessness through collaboration and partnerships with government at the local, state, and national levels.

In this Grantee Spotlight story, we learn how the Richmond Area Collaborative to End Chronic Homelessness (RACECH) exemplifies the power and cooperation of partnerships. The RACECH project is coordinated by Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH), a Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) grantee and Services in Supportive Housing (SSH) provider in Richmond, Virginia. The program is a community-wide collaboration of a dozen non-profits and government agencies at all levels to identify, engage, house and serve vulnerable individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in the Richmond region.

In the fall of 2011, VSH began using CABHI funds to solidify community efforts that had begun a few months earlier with a local 100,000 Homes Campaign initiative. In the first year, VSH housed 66 of the community’s most vulnerable individuals who were experiencing chronic homelessness. As the lead agency of RACECH, VSH achieved a more global, and less quantifiable, goal that first year. Working with The Daily Planet, Homeward, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, the Richmond Department of Social Services, and others, VSH and RACECH formalized community structures intended to identify, engage, house, and serve the most vulnerable people living on their streets. Creating those structural and functional enhancements to the community system consumed much of the first year.

By the end of the first grant year, however, the project’s momentum had yielded major dividends by putting into place collaborative, community-wide systems to end chronic homelessness. These coordinated systems supported:

  • Outreach to identify people who experience chronic homelessness
  • Data collection to prioritize the most vulnerable individuals and measure outcomes
  • Systems for tracking people experiencing chronic homelessness across service providers
  • Multiple permanent supportive housing (PSF) options
  • Enhanced access to and integration of behavioral health and physical health care
  • Improved access to mainstream benefits
  • Community-wide training and support

Newly created positions were filled in three different agencies, including positions “shared” across multiple organizations. The project was able to recruit a full-time psychiatrist by combining the part-time need of two organizations several miles apart, The Daily Planet, a Healthcare for the Homeless provider, and VSH. The project feels that the time that they took in the first year to lay the groundwork and build partnerships really paid off. Six months into the second year they had not only made up the “shortfall” in their first year goal, they had already exceeded their second year goal. The project continues to build on that success. In the first 22 months of the CABHI grant, VSH permanently housed 124 chronically homeless adults, 12.7% more than its goal of 110 for the entire 36 months of the grant.

These efforts and the significant results have not gone unnoticed. Homeward, the planning and coordinating organization for homeless services in the greater Richmond region, awarded VSH and its partners the 2013 Snagajob Innovation in Homeless Services Provision Award for its role in spearheading the regional Richmond Area Collaborative to End Chronic Homelessness initiative. This award recognizes an agency that has demonstrated innovation and creativity in addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness, in alignment with the goals of the federal Ten Year Plan to end homelessness. More importantly, the project has seen a dramatic 40% drop in the number of unsheltered adults in the City of Richmond since this grant began (as indicated in the point-in-time counts of July 2011 and July 2013). The project is demonstrating, in a powerful way, that they are ending homelessness by providing a permanent, proven solution that unites the elements of permanent housing, supportive services, and community-wide collaboration.

Not content to rest on their impressive laurels, the project feels that there is still room for improvement. The program’s ongoing evaluation shows that those people whom they have housed have an immediate and dramatic drop in both their hospital or emergency room use and arrests or incarcerations. There has also been success in assisting these individuals to secure benefits. However, the evaluation also lets the project know that many participants need a little longer to improve mental health and overcome substance use. With this knowledge, the project’s strong community collaborative continues to seek ways to improve those outcomes. The project is also exploring the critically important, but sometimes elusive, element of sustainability. Their goal is to sustain these successful efforts after the end of both grant terms.

Learn more about the Ten Year Plan at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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Joyce Dampeer
Last Updated: 07/08/2019