Houston Could End Homelessness With Less Than 2,000 Housing Units

Houston's homeless response program has yielded strong results in the last few years. Just 1,900 new affordable housing units could 'effectively end' homelessness in the city.

2 minute read

December 2, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Houston, Texas

Jez Campbell / Shutterstock

In an article published by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Mike Nichols, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, outlines the success the city has had in reducing homelessness and the steps necessary to "effectively end" it. According to Nichols, the three-county homeless response system known as "The Way Home" has placed more than 24,000 people into housing since 2012. Of people housed in the last two years, more than 90 percent have maintained stable housing.

Nichols attributes the success of the program to several factors, including:

collaborative leadership and buy-in among local elected officials and local direct service provider agencies; a strong reliance on good data to drive decision-making; and an emphasis on prioritizing the most vulnerable for access to those programs first. We follow Housing First, a nationally recognized best practice that involves providing housing to people with no preconditions (e.g., sobriety) and then offering voluntary supportive services to help them maintain their housing.

Nichols points to strong investment in permanent, supportive housing as a key driver of Houston's success, but asserts that "we urgently need more one-bedroom, all-bills-paid apartment units to continue to house our clients." The Coalition estimates that the city needs 1,900 new affordable housing units to provide housing for all who need it.

Nichols concludes by highlighting the need for "available, safe, and affordable market-rate apartments" as a crucial tool for agencies working to help people who are unhoused.

Monday, November 29, 2021 in Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research

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