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Supportive housing project aims to help vulnerable young adults

Ed Long

Ed Long

Two organizations are launching a pilot project in Oklahoma that they hope will help keep some vulnerable young adults off the streets and out of jail.

The Oklahoma City-based consulting firm Cross Sector Innovations and the New York-based nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing are launching a project that is designed to provide housing and social support services to people 17 and older who are aging out of foster care and the juvenile justice system.

Organizers hope the project demonstrates a model that could be effective in working with young adults on a larger scale.

The project, which is being funded by a grant from the Arnall Family Foundation, aims to place young adults into housing and support them there. Organizers are evaluating Oklahoma City and Tulsa as possible sites for the project. They hope to have the project operational by July.

Ed Long, founder of Cross Sector Innovations, said the project will bring together a range of nonprofits, public agencies and other service providers to work with young people using a model called supportive housing.

Under that model, agencies and nonprofits begin by placing clients into affordable housing, either at a single-site facility or in existing rental properties, said Robert Friant, of the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Clients are expected to pay a monthly rent based on their income, he said.

Once clients are in housing, a number of agencies and nonprofits provide them services tailored to match each client's needs, he said. They could include treatment for medical, mental health and addiction issues, he said, as well as education and workforce development.

Avoiding the 'revolving door'

Supportive housing can be an effective tool for vulnerable people of any age, Friant said, but young adults who are leaving state custody need those services most acutely. The age at which young adults leave foster care and the juvenile justice system tends to be a volatile time, Friant said.

When people leave those systems without the appropriate support, they're at higher risk of homelessness, Friant said. In many cases, that homelessness can lead to incarceration, he said, which turns into a cycle of homelessness and re-incarceration that can last a lifetime.

“It's like a revolving door," Friant said.

Long said the project will use a pay-for-success funding model, meaning private investors provide up-front money and public entities only provide funding if the program meets certain performance benchmarks are met. That model reduces costs and limits taxpayers' liability if the project is unsuccessful, he said.

Although the project is a small-scale demonstration, Long said organizers hope it leads to a broader system that provides a safe, supportive place to live for every high-risk young adult who would otherwise not have housing.

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›