The Mental Health Center of Denver knows people need their basic needs covered before they can focus on their well-being, which is why we incorporate the Housing First model into our services.
“Once the people we serve have those basic needs met, they can build almost anything else up from there — self-esteem, recovery and empowerment,” said Takisha Keesee, MA, LPC, program manager of the Mental Health Center of Denver’s Social Impact Bond team.
Denver’s Social Impact Bond Program
The team is part of Denver’s Social Impact Bond program — an initiative that uses funds from lenders to provide housing and supportive case management services to 250 individuals who experience homelessness and cycle in and out of jail.
Our organization is responsible for housing 87 individuals. Sixty people can live in Sanderson Apartments – our new permanent supportive housing apartment home – for an unlimited amount of time. Twenty-seven people will live in sites scattered throughout the community with landlords that understand our mission.
Since it is a project-based voucher, rent is 30% of a person’s income. If they have no income, funds from the social impact bond pay their rent fees.
Our Social Impact Bond team formed this past February and, in addition to Takisha, it includes four clinical case managers (Marquis Tate, Elizabeth Coet, Heather Moruzzi and Lisa Bryant) and a peer specialist (Kevin Reed). The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless also has a Social Impact Bond team.
By the Numbers:
- Each year, 250 individuals who are homeless account for:
- 14,000 days in jail
- 2,200 visits to detox
- 1,500 arrests
- 500 emergency room visits
- Each year, the city spends approximately $7 million on 250 individuals to cover safety-net services, such as jail days, police encounters, court costs, detox, ER and other medical visits.
- Housing units that will be built or utilized for this initiative include:
- 250 total housing units in locations across the city
- 210 new units of housing, including at Sanderson Apartments and at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ North Colorado Station and Broadway Renaissance Lofts
- 40 existing units
So, What Does Our Social Impact Bond Team Do?
We receive the last location where they had police contact, and sometimes we can get their police shots through Chris Richardson, program manager of our Co-Responder team. Some are still in custody, and one of our team’s case managers meets exclusively with people in in jail.
“A lot of times, they’ll be released or have an easier outcome legally if the judge knows they’re going to have housing with our program,” Takisha said.
If a person’s not in jail, our team goes to the last known location that they were seen. Our case managers connect with community partners such as Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, St. Francis, Denver Rescue Mission, Samaritan House, Father Woody’s, Urban Peaks and psychiatric emergency services at Denver Health. Usually someone will recognize them.
Some may have moved states, passed away, are unable to be located or choose not to be in the program. The individuals who are located and agree to housing receive a case management team, which works on obtaining IDs, birth certificates, social security cards and other documents needed for housing vouchers.
“The Housing First model is all about getting people established with their housing,” Takisha said. “They do not have to receive mental health services from us. We meet them where they’re at.”
How Does the Housing First Model Work?
There have been other housing first models throughout the nation that have proven to be successful.
“It alleviates stress for people and allows them to see if there are any other parts of their lives that they can focus on, such as substance use, relationships or mental health,” she said. “And a lot of times, case managers are able to build up trust with the people they work with.”
Another important role on the team is our peer specialist who has relevant lived experience.
“He’s great at locating people, and he’s able to connect with them in a unique way,” Takisha said. “He’s able to talk with them and connect them to resources to help them get on their feet.”
So far, our team has seen positive results.
“Probation officers and ERs are seeing the positive effects because people aren’t seeking those services like they used to,” she said. “And these individuals’ level of gratitude for their ability to recover is amazing. They’re able to have some stability and recover from whatever else was happening to them in their lives.”