Transitional Housing vs Supportive Housing | Valley Cares
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October 1, 2020 By Cassie

On any given night, there are an estimated 600,000 people in the United States who experience homelessness. This equates to approximately 17 out of every 10,000 people in the general population. At a minimum, 25 percent of these individuals live with a serious mental health condition, and 45 percent have any mental illness.

As reported by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2017, the vast majority of the homeless population lived in transitional housing, and that same year, 33 states increased permanent supportive housing capacity.

If you are looking for a housing option, either for yourself or for a loved one, it’s important to understand what options are available in Utah — especially in terms of transitional and supportive housing.

Transitional vs Supportive Housing — How Do They Compare?

Before addressing the similarities and differences between traditional housing vs supportive housing, it’s important to define the two.

While transitional housing is supportive in terms of an individual’s housing journey, it is temporary. The goal of transitional housing is to provide a place to stay while moving toward a more permanent housing situation (this, on average, is about two to three years). Once individuals have developed more independent living skills and stability, they will move toward a more permanent living situation. Think of transitional housing as the bridge between a crisis shelter and permanent housing.

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In comparison, supportive housing refers to a more permanent, stable living situation. For context, this supported housing continuum of care plan is operated by Valley Behavioral Health. Therefore, the duration of these services will vary from person to person. In most cases, this living arrangement involves a lease, where the tenant pays a fraction of their income to rent.

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Some of the key differences between the two are:

  • Transitional housing involves temporary residence (typically up to 24 months), whereas supportive housing is more permanent. There is no time limit attached to this period.
  • During transitional housing periods, residents are often provided with an array of services to better prepare them for supportive housing (i.e. support for addictions and mental health, education, and training, life skills, structure, etc.). In many cases, these services will continue during the supportive housing phase. However, residents will have more responsibilities (i.e. having to pay rent).

Homelessness and Mental Health

As discussed, many of those living on the streets live with a mental illness. From schizophrenia to substance abuse disorders, depression to anxiety disorders, the relationship between mental health and homelessness is complex — especially in terms of obtaining support.

Learn More About Mental Health and Homelessness

One study reported a 20-year rise in the rate of psychiatric illness among the homeless in St. Louis. Similar trends are being documented across the United States, but changes are being made to prioritize affordable housing and mental health — particularly in Utah.

However, in most cases, mental health conditions create an immense barrier. Among the homeless, those who suffer from untreated mental illnesses often experience significant behavioral and cognitive issues that make it challenging for them to earn a steady income. These issues are often combined with variables such as poverty and a lack of low-income housing.

What is encouraging, is the research shows that once these individuals get into a long-term program, such as transitional housing, not only are they able to work towards stable housing, but they also often improve mental health outcomes. One key Canadian study found that when housing needs are addressed among the homeless, particularly those living with a mental illness, homelessness can be reduced long-term.

The idea here is for programs to take a more person-centered approach. Instead of taking a traditional approach, requiring individuals to receive psychiatric care or to stop using substances before they’re eligible for housing support, the study showed that when there are no pre-requirements, the long-term results can be incredibly positive.

The study followed participants for a total of six years. What they found was that following these six years those who went through the “Housing First” program had stable housing 85 percent of the time, compared to just 60 percent among those who went through the traditional model.

Read more about Mental Health And Homelessness

How Do I Get Into Transitional Housing?

Although the road to permanent housing can be long, it is a rewarding journey that will significantly enhance your quality of life. In order to take action, the first step in achieving permanent housing status is to get into transitional housing.

To do so, you’ll need to seek a program within your local area. Valley Cares, for instance, offers homeless programs to those in the Salt Lake City region. Providing support to those who are 18 years or older, these programs focus on helping those who are homeless and have a serious mental illness. Working alongside other community resources, we are able to provide immense support, both in terms of transitional and supportive housing.

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What Does Outpatient Transitional Housing Mean?

As you explore the services offered by Valley Cares, you’ll notice that our behavioral health centers specialize in outpatient mental health treatment, especially in relation to homeless programs.

Valley Storefront, for instance, offers a non-traditional outpatient facility, providing services to homeless individuals with a serious mental illness. This acts as a point of entry into treatment and a healthier, more productive future. These services are closely tied to the housing programs offered by Valley Cares.

Outpatient transitional housing, particularly at Valley Cares, helps individuals who were previously reluctant to seek treatment. Offering a non-traditional approach, the Salt Lake City homeless community has the opportunity to stay in one of 25 transitional units across Salt Lake City. In addition, these individuals gain access to skills development, peer support, and medication assistance. The ultimate goal here is to encourage sufficiency and a greater quality of life.

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What Are Supportive Housing Services?

Supportive Housing Programs are in place to serve adult clients with serious mental illness and co-occurring disorders.

At Valley Behavioral Health, we own and operate a number of safe and affordable housing options throughout the Salt Lake Valley that offer supportive services ranging from independent living situations to 24/7 supervised housing. These programs are primarily focused on helping individuals learn the necessary skills to live independently in the community.

These services are individualized and vary in intensity, frequency, and duration to meet each client’s needs, increase functionality, promote self-reliance, and enhance the client’s skills, strengths, and abilities to attain goals for recovery. We work closely with numerous community partners and resources to improve access to wrap around services and enhance stability and access to permanent supportive housing.

Learn More With A Valley Specialist Today

It’s Time to Take Action

Working alongside the Road Home, Fourth Street Clinic, and the Salt Lake City County Housing Authority, Valley Cares can provide the stepping stone you or your loved one have been searching for. After all, our goal is to be as accessible as possible to those in need.

Shelia McKenzie, an educator, author, and humanitarian, said it best, “People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.” We’re here to bridge the gap, helping those without a home find comfort, security, and mental wellness.

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