Tampa Bay Grantmakers Examine Proven Solutions for Ending Homelessness in the Region

A University of Tampa study has documented striking cost savings from using a Housing First model to end homelessness in the Tampa Bay region. The study’s results were shared at a recent meeting of Florida Philanthropic Network’s Tampa Bay Funders Forum, which brings together philanthropic organizations from across the Tampa Bay region.

A Housing First model centers on providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible, and offering them the supportive services and connections to the community they need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness. The Housing First model was implemented at a site in Tampa called Cypress Landing, which opened in early 2013 with support from Hillsborough County and Gracepoint Wellness and funding from the federal government.

A recent gathering of FPN’s Tampa Bay Funders Forum highlighted collective efforts to end homelessness in Florida, with presenters (L-R) Central Florida Foundation President and CEO Mark Brewer; Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI) Board Member Mark Merrill; FPN President and CEO David Biemesderfer; Clark Family Fund President Joe Clark; and THHI Board Member Guy King III.

A recent gathering of FPN’s Tampa Bay Funders Forum highlighted collective efforts to end homelessness in Florida, with presenters (L-R) Central Florida Foundation President and CEO Mark Brewer; Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI) Board Member Mark Merrill; FPN President and CEO David Biemesderfer; Clark Family Fund President Joe Clark; and THHI Board Member Guy King III.

A newly released study of Cypress Landing, conducted by researchers at the University of Tampa, documented an overall cost savings to the public of nearly $500,000 over an 18-month period, due to dramatic reductions — by 77% or more — in outpatient and inpatient services, emergency room visits, detox services and incarceration among Cypress Landing residents. The study also documented an overall increase in quality of life reported by these residents, who spoke of having a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. The study’s results were presented to the Tampa Bay Funders Forum by Guy King III and Mike Merrill, board members for the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI).

As one example of how Cypress Landing has changed the lives of its residents, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s records showed that the residents spent a total of 1,140 nights in jail in the 18 months prior to moving into Cypress Landing. In the 18 months after moving into Cypress Landing, that number dropped by 83% to 196 nights in jail, for a cost savings to the public of nearly $68,000.

Merrill and King shared THHI’s goals for ending homelessness in the region. The group is aiming to end veterans homelessness by the end of 2015, end chronic homelessness by 2017 and end family and youth homelessness by 2020. To end chronic homelessness in the region, Merrill and King noted that THHI estimates needing 500 new Housing First units, at a cost of $30 million, which they said will require private sector investment.

THHI estimates that youth homelessness will take the longest to end due to some challenges that are unique to this population of homeless individuals, according to Joe Clark, President of the Clark Family Fund, who also spoke to funders at the luncheon. Clark noted that 35-40% of homeless youth are kicked out of their homes due to LGBT issues, and that it’s often difficult to find youth who are homeless because they don’t want to be found.

A newly released study of Cypress Landing, conducted by researchers at the University of Tampa, documented an overall cost savings to the public of nearly $500,000 over an 18-month period.

Successful mobilization and coordination of services is key in reducing and ending homelessness for youth and all other populations, according to Mark Brewer, President and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation. He described for luncheon participants a major cross-sector initiative to end homelessness in Central Florida using a collective impact model, with the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness serving as the backbone organization.

In Central Florida, homeless individuals spend an average of seven years homeless, costing roughly $31,000 annually in taxpayer costs. With national research calculating Housing First models at just a third of the cost, CFF has collaborated with business and community leaders to develop the Homeless Impact Fund, a platform for investment in evidence-based strategies to end homelessness in Central Florida

A new report on statewide homelessness in Florida was released on the same day as the Tampa Bay Funders Forum luncheon, and it identifies philanthropy as a key player in statewide policy and investment shifts. “The Path Forward: Rethinking Solutions for Homelessness in Florida” is an in-depth study on the state of homelessness in Florida released by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and Barbara Poppe and Associates and made possible through the financial support of JPMorgan Chase.

“As trusted thought leaders and advocates for strong and vibrant communities, the business and philanthropic sectors are uniquely positioned to promote needed systems change, including increased coordination across government departments and agencies, and efforts to transition providers from shelter-based to Housing First models,” the report states.

Florida Philanthropic Network will continue our work to serve as a catalyzer, connector and convener to help maximize the effectiveness of philanthropy’s role in ending homelessness in our state, primarily through Funders Together Florida, FPN’s newest member affinity group, which we are operating in partnership with Funders Together to End Homelessness, national network of grantmakers working to end and prevent homelessness.

– David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network

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