A new report by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) calls for better alignment between housing and supportive services in Vermont. The report was commissioned by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB). CSH convened a steering committee of leaders across the state and held a series of focus groups among providers and clients to develop solutions.
The report focuses on how subsidized apartments built through programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit are being paired with mental health treatment and other supportive services provided through local community agencies. These services have become particularly important as Vermont housing funders like VHFA have prioritized housing projects that set aside units for people that are experiencing homelessness or who are at-risk. These individuals and households often have special needs that can make it difficult to transition to stable housing without support systems.
This system was heavily stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an extraordinary effort to move more than 1,300 households from homelessness or temporary shelters into permanent units. VHFA and VHCB have begun to allow more substantial supportive services to be financed within housing project budgets, but this reduces the amount of funding available for the construction of new units and may not be sustainable long-term.
In addition to funding scarcity, the report identified a number of issues that have made providing supportive services in Vermont challenging, including attracting and retaining service providers, aligning housing and health providers, housing capacity, and the increasing behavioral health needs of program participants.
CSH noted that with the new federal resources available from CARES and ARPA funding, Vermont has an opportunity to better integrate systems. The report emphasizes drawing solutions from people with lived experience and the providers who work directly with them. It highlights programs that offer individualized support, prioritize early intervention and adjust to the changing needs of clients. It suggests that successful programs offer services within the housing setting when possible.
The report calls for better collaboration and data sharing among partners, as well as shared financing and shared governance between the State, housing providers and health providers. This could include a special state-based supportive services fund aligned with housing. It also suggests a statewide plan to address staff shortages and to support recruitment and retention among housing, social services and health care sector providers.
The full report is available on VHFA's website.