Permanent supportive housing, which pairs intensive social, employment and medical services with a permanent apartment for a vulnerable homeless person, is playing a big role across the country in reducing homelessness among people with disabilities and veterans, according to a new new national report released Monday on the state of homelessness in the United States:

The decreases in chronic and veteran homelessness indicate that, with federal, state, and local investment in strategies proven to end homelessness, progress can be made. The ongoing and increased development of permanent supportive housing, a proven solution to ending homelessness for people with disabilities, is bringing down chronic and veteran homelessness numbers in communities across the country.

This is the kind of approach used in Project 25, which identified 35 of the county’s highest users of public services and coaxed them into housing.

The report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that nationwide, homelessness stayed relatively constant between 2011 and 2012, dropping by 0.4 percent. Homelessness among families increased by 1.4 percent in the same period.

But at the same time, two populations showed decreases: the chronically homeless and veterans — two groups the popular permanent supportive housing approach is targeted toward.

Some local service providers are worried the emphasis on creating permanent supportive housing leaves out the rest of the spectrum, like the families that showed an increase in the report. One local observer voiced that concern in our look at Project 25 this week:

Pat Leslie, a social work professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and longtime observer of homelessness services here … cautioned that the chronically homeless don’t comprise the majority of San Diego’s homeless population, even if they use an outsize amount of public services.

“Guess what? Our responsibility as a community is for all kinds of homeless people, everywhere in our community,” she said. “If we target those resources to that group, who takes care of the rest?”

Moreover, the success of these types of programs depends on finding permanent homes that the people in the programs can live in — which has proven challenging for agencies trying to transition people from the streets. The report pushed that point, too. “Emphasis needs to be placed on creating more affordable housing and strengthening the safety net to prevent homelessness.”

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

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Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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