New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has awarded the first round of permanent supportive housing grants in New York City for families in which the head of household has a substance use disorder (SUD). The grants went to five treatment agencies that will use the funding to pay rent for these families, which are expected to be single-parent families. There will be 75 permanent supportive housing units funded with $1,875,000.The grants are for chronically homeless families and were announced last year (see ADAW, Dec. 5, 2011).New York City-based Odyssey House, one of the five grantees, has a history of helping people find places to live after treatment, and will use this grant for residents who are transitioning from treatment in one of its facilities. CEO Peter Provet, Ph.D., welcomed the support for families in treatment, saying one of the biggest barriers to recovery is where people will live after treatment.
Almost 60 percent of Odyssey House residents are homeless when they are admitted, although most are single adults who are not eligible for these units. For these single adults, Provet noted that many are “technically homeless but have a few options in terms or relatives or former relationships.” Part of treatment includes “mending past relationships, in particular with family members,” he told ADAW. “So the majority of these people go back to living with family members.” Still, 20 apartments will not be enough to fill the need.
Transfer From OTDA
The OASAS funding comes from a transfer from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which was appropriated $1,875,000 in the fiscal year 2011 budget for supportive housing, said Jannette M. Rondo, spokeswoman for OASAS. The language accompanying the appropriation stated that the money could be made available to OASAS or other state agencies through a transfer or sub-allocation. “OASAS expressed interest in these funds and no other agency came forward seeking access to these funds,” said Rondo.
All five of the grantees are based in New York City and certified by OASAS to provide treatment services, and are also working with OASAS currently in providing permanent supportive housing to homeless people with SUDs.
The primary target population for the new grants is families living in OTDA homeless shelters, which are funded with federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money. These family shelters are transitional housing facilities with an expected length of stay of about one year, with on-site staff supervision as well as child care and social services, said Rondo. About 92 percent of these families consist of single mothers with several children; the remaining 8 percent are mothers and fathers or fathers heading the household.
The second priority population for the grants — the group that will be served by Odyssey House — are women who entered OASAS-certified residential treatment programs with their children when they were homeless; the average length of stay to completion is also 9 to 12 months.
The families do not need to go into treatment first if they have remained in the family shelter for at least six months, said Rondo. “They are considered stabilized,” she said. In addition, all families who participate in the initiative will be given access to OASAS-certified outpatient treatment as well as recovery support services through the Recovery Community Centers now in New York City, some of which are funded by OASAS and some by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The first round of the housing initiative funds 75 apartment units with fiscal year 2012 money. Funding for a second round, which would support another 60 units, is included in the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, and would be supported by an additional $1.5 million. By March 31, 2013, OASAS expects to have 135 family apartments fully operational with ongoing funding of $3,375,000. OASAS expects that there will be additional new funding rounds in coming years. New York’s commitment to funding housing for homeless people with SUDs started in 2006.
The family housing initiative is not time-limited — the state and New York City are committed to continue the program “as long as there is documented community need,” said Rondo. State funds are always subject to the annual budget appropriation process.
The process is “turn-key,” which means that the families will assume the responsibilities of signing a lease and paying the rent with a private landlord, said Rondo.
The supportive housing apartment units are not certified by OASAS; they are not transitional residential treatment “beds.” Rather, the units must have passed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing quality standards, said Rondo. All buildings must have a documented Certificate of Occupancy, and the number of occupants per apartment must not exceed HUD standards in terms of ages and gender of children.
Some of the units are “scattershot” in nature, rather than all in the same building, reflecting the challenge of finding a single building in New York City. However, the grantees will find units that are as close together as possible so that families can support one another, said Provet.
The grant will help Odyssey House pay the rent for the 20 apartments as well as hire a case manager, a vocational counselor, and a clinical supervisor, said Provet. He said there is typically no problem with landlords accepting these residents, partly because they know the rent will be paid on time, and because the residents have “good behavior.”
In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act kicks in, OASAS expects that the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, which now must be used for treatment, will be committed to OASAS-run supportive housing, said Rondo. “However, it is not clear at this time whether SAMHSA will allow block grant monies to pay for ongoing rental subsidies in addition to paying for the costs of operational staff and support staff,” she said. Block grant funding is not allowed to be used for rental subsidies under current law.
OASAS is aware of the need for supportive housing programs outside of New York City. Currently, the OASAS housing portfolio includes about 200 family apartment units in the balance of the state, with most of them funded primarily through HUD grants that pay for the rental subsidies in combination with OASAS state aid monies that pay for case management and other supportive services in those programs.
“One of the critical elements of helping individuals to maintain their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is stable housing,” said OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez in announcing the grants Feb. 13. “This grant provides a great opportunity to help them to rebuild their lives and provide a home for their families.”
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will procure the additional units.
The five agencies identified to receive the OASAS awards are:
• Housing+Solutions (10 units in Brooklyn, $250,000)
• Women in Need (20 units in Manhattan, $498,900)
• Palladia (10 units in the Bronx, $250,000)
• Odyssey House (20 units in the Bronx, $499,900)
• BASICS (15 units in the Bronx, $374,925)