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Chronic Homelessness: A New Solution to an Old Problem

Over 410 homeless people in Massachusetts are now off the streets and in stable, supportive housing, thanks to a first-of-its-kind approach to eradicating chronic homelessness.

The approach, called Pay for Success, works like this: a private investor or philanthropic organization provides the upfront funding for a worthy cause, (in this case, reducing chronic individual homelessness) and gets reimbursed by the government only if the work produces successful results. It’s a win-win: the government gets the resources needed to take on tough challenges without risking taxpayer money, and investors have confidence that their dollars are making a difference.

In Massachusetts, the Pay for Success model makes it possible for United Way and partners (Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance and Corporation for Supportive Housing) to provide permanent housing to people who would otherwise rely on emergency resources. It’s not just about putting a roof over people’s heads; it’s also about ensuring they have access to much-needed health services. Of the 410 people housed so far, 330 now get proper healthcare through the MassHealth Pay for Success Community Support Program for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness (CSPECH) program.

By reducing the number of people using emergency services, the innovative approach is also reducing the cost to taxpayers. And this is just the beginning: The Pay for Success initiative plans to create at least 500 units of stable, supportive housing for up to 800 individuals over six years. In 2016, there were 1.272 chronically homeless individuals in Massachusetts, according to the annual point-in-time count.

Learn more about how United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is using the Pay for Success model to improve lives and build stronger communities.

And did you know that United Way has also used the Pay for Success model to finance high-quality pre-school for kids in Utah? Check it out!

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