Thursday, February 5, 2009

Permanent Supportive Housing

The housing that Central Dallas CDC is working on for people who are now homeless is “permanent supportive housing”. That means a couple of things. First (today’s topic), the housing is permanent. It is not transitional. Just like any other apartment project, you can stay so long as you pay the rent and comply with the terms of the lease.

I think it’s hard for most of us to imagine how difficult it is not to have a home. To be rootless and homeless, always on the move, never to have a place to call one’s own. We all crave the security of a place to call our own. I recently talked with a developer of senior housing who had done a demographic study of the people that moved into his developments. At first the demographics looked arbitrary and random. There was no way to predict where the people that moved to a certain property lived now or where they would choose to move.

When he looked closer, though, a pattern emerged. People tended to move back to an area where they had lived before. The pattern was hidden because people may have lived in the area two or three or more addresses in the past—sometimes several decades in the past.

I find, as I grow older, that my desire to move to a new place is less and less, and apparently I am not alone. Some 70% of seniors live the rest of their life wherever they celebrated their sixty-fifth birthday (I’m not quite to that marker, yet). (See,, for example). The idea is known as “aging in place”, which of course is what most people have always done. I guess now that moving to Florida and retirement communities has become so popular, we had to invent a term for it.

Housing for people that have been homeless needs to be permanent. That’s the promise that solves the fear of never having a place; of always being on the move. Some people will move on to a larger or fancier place, but not because we make them, but because that’s what they want. Some, especially if they are older, may live with us for the rest of their lives.

The opportunity to stay as long as you wish, even the rest of your life, is one of the secrets of success to permanent supportive housing.

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