Program achieves impressive results in bringing homeless people into housing

DENVER, Co. — People who have been in jail are more than 10 times more likely to end up homeless. This turned out to be true for Walter Boyd.

“My whole life was falling apart and I didn’t know what to do,” Boyd said.

Divorce, pandemic, then homelessness. Things looked bleak for Boyd two years ago when he found himself sleeping on a cot in a homeless shelter.

“I didn’t know if I was going to make it. You know, I did eight years in prison, and I was like a man, I had a better chance in prison,” Boyd said.

But from the depths of this despair, Walter received a lifeline he had not expected.

“I walked in and someone said a lady from housing was looking for you. I said, ‘Are you looking for me?’ They are not looking for people to lodge. You are put on a list and you get lost. She left her number and said to call him. So I called and she said, ‘Mr. Boyd, we tried to put you in accommodation, “and I almost passed out man,” he recalled.

What took her breath away was a small old studio nearby. This is the result of a new program in Denver.

“The Denver Social Impact Bond was one of the first social impact bonds in the country to focus on addressing homelessness and the homelessness-to-prison cycle,” said Katie McKenna, D. ‘Enterprise Community.

“The Social Impact Bond program targeted 250 chronically homeless people who had frequent interactions with the criminal justice system. The idea is that with private investment and funding from the city and state, we would be able to house individuals at a lower cost to taxpayers,” said Cathy Alderman, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. .

McKenna and Alderman were part of the partnership to make it happen.

The money came from social impact bonds, which are funded by private companies for government programs. If the programs become profitable or save money, the funds are sometimes returned with a profit.

In this case, the funds were used to house the homeless, with impressive results.

“77% of people in the program stayed housed,” McKenna said.

The results are remarkable as 50,000 people go directly from prison to a homeless shelter each year and homeless people are more than 10 times more likely to interact with law enforcement than people in general.

“34% fewer interactions with law enforcement, 40% fewer arrests, overall people spent less time in jail,” McKenna said.

“We don’t have enough reintegration programs for people who come out of the criminal justice system and end up in housing. So they end up in a shelter, back on the streets, and then the cycle continues,” Alderman said.

The program was so successful in disrupting the cycle in Denver that it was expanded. There are also similar programs in at least 15 cities across the country.

For Boyd, that made all the difference. He’s been in his apartment for two years. He is on disability, but he has also found another job.

“My home is a place I can come to when things aren’t going well and I can just have that time to myself and figure it out,” Boyd said.

Ryan H. Bowman