Pilot Voucher Program to Provide Supportive Housing to ‘Familiar Faces’ at Hospitals
Jersey City, NJ – Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), joined Hudson County officials today to announce an innovative Housing First pilot program in partnership with the County and two hospitals, Jersey City Medical Center and Hoboken University Medical Center. The program, referred to as Hudson County “Familiar Faces”, specifically addresses homeless individuals’ lack of access to affordable housing with supportive services, resulting in their repeat use of hospitals, jails, shelters and other crisis systems. The program aims to break the cycle of familiar faces by providing permanent supportive housing solutions to individuals while saving public institutions money.
This program marks the first time two major hospital systems in New Jersey are committing funding while partnering with the State to provide permanent supportive housing solutions directly to individuals experiencing homelessness. This latest DCA collaboration with hospitals expands and complements the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s (NJHMFA) recent partnership with the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) to develop housing opportunities for community members in need.
Together, both initiatives represent a new aspect of the Housing First model that DCA introduced several years ago and that has been growing steadily since, as new partners and additional sources of revenue have been secured.
“Access to housing and quality medical care are social determinants of overall health,” said Lt. Governor Oliver. “This unique public-private partnership between the State, Hudson County, cities and hospitals is a progressive and holistic approach to curbing the cycle of chronic homelessness in New Jersey. We look forward to this innovative pilot program leading to additional such partnerships throughout the state.”
The Familiar Faces program is based on Hudson County’s Frequent User (FUSE) Initiative which seeks to identify and permanently house chronically homeless individuals who are the most frequent users of the Hudson County Corrections & Rehabilitation Center (HCC&RC), homeless shelters, hospitals and other crisis systems by using a Housing First model. Hudson County was able to expand its FUSE program through its participation in DCA’s Statewide Housing First Initiative. This DCA initiative provided permanent rental assistance and seed funding for supportive services, which leveraged local and private funding for up to 500 chronically homeless individuals across the state, including 80 served through the Hudson County FUSE project. For the Familiar Faces program, DCA will provide up to 25 rental vouchers, which can be used throughout Hudson County and the state by individuals enrolled in the program. Permanent supportive housing costs are approximately $25,000 a year per person, including the voucher and supportive services.
“The Hudson County Familiar Faces program reflects the next step in DCA’s significant investment in addressing homelessness through the Housing First model, including the Statewide Housing First Initiative and the Housing First Initiative for people with opioid addictions,” said Janel Winter, director of DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources. “By engaging with the health system, as well as with government and community providers, this program will end the cycle of homelessness and provide a foundation for improved health for 25 people in Hudson County.”
A cost analysis conducted by Hudson County followed 25 clients in the FUSE pilot program and analyzed before and after costs to select public institutions. The results showed that the Hudson County Corrections & Rehabilitation Center (HCC&RC), Jersey City Medical Center and shelter costs decreased for these individuals from $850,000 to $452,000 with a single year of supportive housing, amounting to a 47 percent total cost reduction for the public institutions.
“Ending homelessness is ultimately about cooperation and coordination—and that was the role we were glad to play here to get this new Housing First Program, Familiar Faces, off the ground,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. “I want to thank our Community Development staff, Garden State Episcopal, both of these outstanding care providers, and DCA for working together to help us take this important next step in providing additional permanent supportive housing units for the homeless in Hudson County.”
Individuals will be identified for the program through the County’s Coordinated Entry Program run by Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC). To be eligible, the individual must have experienced long-term homelessness and be highly vulnerable, having frequently visited the emergency department or been admitted to the hospital system multiple times in a year. Upon entry into the program, the client will pay 30 percent of their income as rent, with the housing voucher making up the difference. Supportive services will be provided by GSECDC and Jersey City Medical Center.
“Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC) is thrilled that there are 25 new vouchers available to serve some of the neediest, most vulnerable, homeless participants of our Hudson CASA Coordinated Entry Program,” said GSECDC Executive Director Carol Mori. “GSECDC is very grateful to partner with the Department of Community Affairs, Hudson County, Carepoint Health and Jersey City Medical Center to help provide long-term housing stability and additional positive outcomes for these participants.”
The supportive services provided to people in the program include:
- Assistance in obtaining identification documents and enrolling them in mainstream benefits such as Medicaid, TANF, General Assistance and Food Stamps;
- Housing search, leasing, securing household furnishings, move-in assistance, and orientation to the neighborhood such as local shopping, utilization of public transportation and recreational opportunities;
- Service planning and wellness and recovery planning;
- Supportive counseling and problem-solving; mental health rehabilitation services; crisis and respite services;
- Skills related to independent living and family and social supports;
- Support for substance use treatment, harm reduction and sobriety, medication adherence as well as primary and physical health and dental services; and
- Literacy programs and employment, education and financial services.
“We are impressed to see this kind of foresight and cooperation among government, local healthcare providers, and nonprofits,” said Kristin Miller, director of Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) programs in the NY-NJ metro area. “These are the cutting-edge partnerships that effectively end homelessness and reduce healthcare costs for all of us. CSH is the national champion of the FUSE model and we hope every state and county will take the same initiative as New Jersey and Hudson County, building similar collaborations so people facing homelessness receive housing and critical services like healthcare that keep them housed and more self-sufficient.”
Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC) will provide $50,000 a year to GSECDC to provide supportive services to five of their housed individuals.
“CarePoint Health has a long-standing program of outreach to our homeless community, providing health screenings and medical care. While important, it is only a short-term answer. We are proud to partner with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Hudson County and the City of Hoboken on this important initiative that will provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless in our community,” said Dr. Meika Roberson, chief medical officer of Hoboken University Medical Center. “Quality, affordable housing, along with support services, is the foundation for a better, healthier life and we applaud the vision and leadership of all of the elected officials who have made this program possible.”
Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) will expand its already existing supportive housing program and hire a full-time case manager to provide services to up to 20 of their housed individuals.
“As an anchor institution in Hudson County, Jersey City Medical Center has been actively addressing the issue of homelessness in our community for the past 15 years through our supportive housing program and supportive services,” said JCMC President and CEO Joseph Scott. “Jersey City Medical Center welcomes this opportunity to build a healthier community and is eager to work with the state, county, and new community partners to expand Hudson County’s Familiar Faces program and take a step closer to ending the cycle of homelessness.”
“This crisis knows no borders, and I am proud of the progress we have made working collaboratively, which goes beyond simply handing someone a dollar or providing them with temporary shelter,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “Our efforts are multi-faceted, addressing the root causes of homelessness. Not only are we getting folks off the street, but we are equipping them with the tools necessary to avoid falling back into homelessness.”
This new housing and healthcare system partnership is a part of a greater initiative within DCA to address chronic homelessness and provide supportive housing throughout the state by partnering with counties, cities and hospital systems. DCA will be featuring a panel on Housing for Community Needs at the upcoming Governor’s Conference on Housing and Economic Development on October 2-3 in Atlantic City where panelists will discuss hospitals, health systems and supportive housing as well as building healthy communities and consider strategies for improving neighborhood health and economic conditions. For additional information about the housing conference, please visit: www.njhousingconference.com.
Established in 1967, DCA offers a wide range of programs and services that respond to issues of public concern including affordable housing production, fire safety and building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery.
For more information about DCA, visit: www.nj.gov/dca/