CHHS study demonstrates housing program helps save lives, money

A Charlotte-based permanent supportive housing program is finding success in its efforts to improve stability for chronically homeless individuals while also helping the community to save money, according to a report from UNC Charlotte’s College of Health and Human Services.

The report “Moore Place Permanent Support Housing Evaluation Study” examined the Moore Place housing program and how it is supporting individuals struggling with the devastating effects of homelessness, especially those suffering from disabling conditions such as mental illness, addiction and physical health issues.

Social work assistant professor Lori Thomas led the evaluation team that studied the impact of the Moore Place program on the housing, clinical and social stability of its tenants and on their emergency room and jail utilization. The team, which included experts from the UNC Greensboro, N.C. A&T State University and the University of South Carolina, concluded that Moore Place has succeeded in maintaining a high housing stability rate for its clients. The report also found that the program helped to reduce inappropriate service utilization in hospitals and jails among its tenants — alleviating a burden on law enforcement and emergency health services.

With 85 apartments, Moore Place is the centerpiece of the Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks program. It is based on a philosophy that housing homeless individuals first stabilizes their lives and provides the foundation for successful outcomes. Since opening in early 2012, Moore Place has provided permanent housing and comprehensive support services to individuals with extensive histories of homelessness and a disabling condition, such as behavioral health disorders, chronic health conditions, physical disabilities and developmental disabilities. Moore Place is the first in the Charlotte area to operate using the “Housing First” philosophy.

“’Housing First’ is ending homelessness for some of Charlotte’s most vulnerable,” Thomas said. “This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that even the hardest to serve in our communities can be successfully housed and that housing with necessary supportive services not only leads to better outcomes for individuals but is cheaper for the community.”

Overall, the study found:

  • Moore Place tenants are dealing with challenges that surpass the vulnerability of those in comparable programs nationally
  • Moore Place is demonstrating high housing stability rates after one year of housing
  • Area hospital bills, emergency room visits, and lengths of hospitalizations have decreased during tenants’ first year of housing at Moore Place. There was a 78% reduction in emergency room visits and a 79% reduction in in-patient hospitalizations, resulting in a 70% reduction ($1.8 million) in hospital bills in just one year
  • Arrests and jail stays of Moore Place tenants decreased during their first year in the program. There was a 78% reduction in arrests and 84% reduction in jail stays

Another outcome reported by Moore Place tenants was greater social support among friends, as compared to their circumstances prior to entering the program.

According to the evaluation team, the newly released findings are part of an intermediate phase of the research project. The final phase will continue to document the housing stability of tenants, as well as clinical, social and community impact that may be further associated with the program in tenants’ second year of residency.

Moore Place is owned and operated by the Urban Ministry Center, an interfaith organization that provides an array of services to meet the needs of Charlotte’s homeless population. Later this year, the Moore Place project is slated to expand by an additional 35 units of housing for the chronically homeless.