Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative

woman advising housing assistance to Denver homeless

Without access to housing and services, many people experiencing chronic, or long-term, homelessness are trapped in a homelessness-jail cycle—rotating in and out of jail, detoxification centers, and emergency health care. This cycle doesn’t help people access the assistance they need to find stability, and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers.

The Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative (Denver SIB), launched in 2016 by the City and County of Denver, aimed to increase housing stability and decrease jail stays among people who were experiencing chronic homelessness and had frequent interactions with the criminal justice and emergency health systems. The initiative provided supportive housing (a permanent housing subsidy and intensive services) using a Housing First approach, which aims to quickly get people out of homelessness and into housing, without requiring that participants meet preconditions or requirements.

The Urban Institute, with partners from The Evaluation Center at the University of Colorado Denver, tracked implementation of the Denver SIB and evaluated its effects through a randomized controlled trial between 2016 and 2020.

The Denver SIB study is one of the most rigorous evaluations of how supportive housing affects people’s interactions with the criminal justice system and emergency health services, and it adds to the extensive evidence base that demonstrates supportive housing, through a Housing First approach, ends chronic homelessness. The study shows that by offering housing and the right supports, this type of preventive investment can help people find stability while reducing the public costs of the homelessness-jail cycle.

 


 

Researchers

We acknowledge the research assistance from our colleagues over the years, including Shiva Kooragayala, Ruth Gourevitch, Prasanna Rajasekaran, and Patrick Spauster.

For inquiries about this project, contact media@urban.org