Denver, CO

Federal funds to house homeless people with criminal records

David Heitz

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Denver is the first city in the nation to receive a federal SIPRA grant to help combat homelessness. The money will pay for housing and mental health treatment for people experiencing homelessness who have had interactions with the legal system. These are people who repeatedly have accessed costly hospital care paid for by Medicaid.

The grant will fund the Housing to Health program, or H2H. “We’re honored that Denver has been selected as the first city to tackle the complicated issue of homelessness through a Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act award from the U.S. Treasury Department,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a news release. “Through our previous work, we housed more than 250 people experiencing homelessness who were frequently interacting with police, our jails and emergency care, and we proved that when housed and wrapped with services, people encountered the criminal justice system less often and dramatically increased their use of preventative medical care.

“This is a win-win for everyone involved because the wellbeing of these individuals is greatly improved, and the city is able to redirect those costs to other needs.”

Similar program helped me get on my feet

I received housing through Colorado Coalition for the Homeless after an arrest and several hospital stays during a period of homelessness in 2019. I began to receive extensive mental health care and case management when I moved into my apartment in 2020. Today I am working and paying rent.

Those in the program will receive wraparound mental health services like I did and more. “The SIPPRA program makes funding available to state and local governments for pay-for-results social impact partnership projects,” according to a U.S. Department of Treasury news release. “SIPPRA projects may seek to improve a variety of social problems, including increasing employment, wages, and financial stability for low-income families; improving family health and housing; and reducing recidivism.”

Denver will receive money based on meeting certain goals. “Denver will receive up to $5.512 million if its H2H program sees an increase in housing stability (reduction in homelessness), improved health, increased access to health services, and a decrease in criminal justice involvement,” according to the news release. “These outcomes are expected to lead to a reduction of net federal health care expenditures. The SIPPRA Independent Evaluator grant that Denver will receive will be used to pay for the costs of independently evaluating the project. Similar supportive housing projects have shown an increase in housing stability and access to health services while decreasing criminal justice involvement including fewer arrests and jail days.”

Wraparound services key to success

“While homelessness resolution is one of the top challenges faced by Denver and many other communities, we know from experience that we can make lasting change by offering housing together with much-needed wrap-around services,” said Britta Fisher, executive director of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, in a news release. “We’re thrilled to build upon Denver’s recent pay-for-performance successes and reduce homelessness among our neighbors who are facing some of the toughest and costliest of housing stability challenges.”

Mayor Hancock has close ties to the White House. “SIPPRA funding is awarded through a competitive process,” according to the news release from the Department of Treasury. “The Treasury Department selected Denver’s project based on the strength of its application, input from the Commission on Social Impact Partnerships, and in consultation with the Federal Interagency Council on Social Impact Partnerships and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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