Using the Supportive Housing Opportunity Planner Tool to Drive Efforts to End Chronic Homelessness

Communities across the county are focused on efforts to end chronic homelessness. We believe that a critical first step in this work is for community and policy leaders to understand their local need for supportive housing and plan an effective strategy to make this housing available as quickly as possible. To help support these efforts, we developed the Supportive Housing Opportunity Planner (SHOP). The tool uses your 2015 Point-in-Time data and some basic assumptions about inflow and outflow to project the number of housing units needed over time to meet the 2017 goal. The tool offers communities practical knowledge that allows for data-driven conversations on local actions to:

1) increase the prioritization of existing Continuum of Care (CoC) turnover units,

2) seek mainstream housing resources, and

3) create new supportive housing, among other strategies.

SHOP Tool in Action: State of Louisiana and Miami-Dade County

In Louisiana, key state and community partners are working collaboratively with HUD technical assistance and the Louisiana Housing Corporation to plan for the end to chronic homelessness state-wide. Their work involves a number of strategies, including the use of the SHOP tool by each CoC. CoCs are using the tool to drive strategic conversations on using conversion dollars, as well as targeting and prioritization of CoC units. Moreover, because of the involvement of state agencies, CoCs are also using the tool to examine aggregated data to inform the need for a state-wide supportive housing pipeline.

Last year, a CoC in Lafayette, Louisiana piloted the SHOP tool and used the data to develop their supportive housing development plan. With a concrete proposal to achieve an important mission, they were able to enlist the support of their local Parish Council and an area foundation to gain additional resources for supportive housing. Through a combination of CoC dollars that were converted from transitional housing and supportive services, a commitment of mainstream tenant-based rental assistance vouchers, and private dollars that will fund supportive services, the Lafayette CoC is moving toward its goal to have an adequate number of units by the end of 2017 to end chronic homelessness in their community.

“The SHOP tool enriches funding conversations with key stakeholders within the CoC, through the use of hard data to develop strategies that identify key housing needs," said Eric Gammons, director of operations at Catholic Services of Acadiana. "This tool has sharpened the CoC’s planning capacity to initiate housing opportunities that will meet the needs of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness within the next two years.”

In Miami, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust worked in 2015 to present data derived from the SHOP tool at a number of community forums to show the need for supportive housing. These forums included homeless service providers, housing agencies, and elected officials. As a result, the Trust allocated additional funding to develop new supportive housing units in 2015 and are planning for new units in 2016 and 2017 to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness.

“The SHOP tool is easy to use, and it was provided to us at a time when we needed a strategy for identifying our permanent housing gaps and needs towards ending chronic homelessness," said Manny Sarria, Deputy Executive Director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.

These additional units were a critical component of a pilot project known as Strike Force: Urban Core which sought to reduce chronic street homelessness in the downtown area. Over a three month period through January 31, 2016, the Homeless Trust and community partners housed 54 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, moving them from the streets into permanent supportive housing.

A Data-Driven Conversation Starter

The SHOP tool is all about being data-driven in your approach to discussing what it is going to take to end chronic homelessness. With concrete knowledge to inform these discussions, there is legitimacy on the planning side and purposefulness on the investment side.

Even more importantly, it is easy to use! The tool already includes your CoC and state PIT data so you just select your location from a drop down menu and your data is populated. The tool also pulls from your CoC Housing Inventory Chart to track the percentage of your housing units dedicated to individuals that are chronically homeless and the percentage of the balance of non-dedicated units that are prioritized for individuals that are chronically homeless. This basic level of data provides an important snapshot right from the start. You can then test your assumptions and actual strategies that will propel you to get to zero individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in 2017.

It is important to note that the tool makes some basic assumptions using federal data on the numbers of new entries each year and also about turnover rates. As with any tool, you need to make it work for you and it can be adjusted based on your local experiences and data.

Achieving the goal of ending chronic homelessness is within reach. The SHOP tool can help move your community closer to the goal using data and local intelligence to drive conversations and engage partners. Contact your regional coordinator if you would like help using the SHOP tool in your area.

Editor's Note: The SHOP tool was originally released in 2015, and was recently updated with 2015 PIT data.

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