Mental illness and substance abuse provide a doubly disabling path for yet one more personal tragedy: homelessness.
That is why Tempe’s selection for a prestigious U.S. housing award means a lot to those behind the efforts that led to the recognition.
The city’s participation in a regional effort to house 100 people experiencing homelessness has been recognized with a 2019 Award of Merit in Affordable Housing.
The innovative HUD H2 Healthcare & Housing initiative, which includes the Tempe Housing Authority and four other entities, offers a creative and replicable way to address housing needs for the increasing numbers of people who are homeless and experiencing general mental health or substance abuse issues.
“We are honored to be recognized as part of this collaborative effort to help people in need find housing and health services,” said Naomi Farrell, city of Tempe human services director.
“Homelessness knows no boundaries. It is vitally important that we work as a region to find solutions.”
The Tempe Housing Authority was recognized by National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials at a conference earlier this month. The H2 partnership includes Arizona’s Medicaid unit, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, along with regional behavioral healthcare authority Mercy Care and the housing authorities of Tempe, Phoenix and Maricopa County.
Through the H2 effort, AHCCCS will pay rental subsidies for 12-24 months to house 100 individuals referred by Mercy Care.
The housing authorities then help them find permanent homes through the Housing Choice Voucher, or Section 8, program.
Tempe housing oversight includes responsibility for 25 vouchers as part of the effort, a commitment the city expects to fill within six months.
“This is a vulnerable population that has limited access to resources and housing options due to the realities of mental illness and substance abuse,” said LeVon Lamy, Tempe’s housing manager.
“By providing housing and healthcare, we are giving them the opportunity to seek the care they need to get better and stabilize their lives.”
The Tempe unit is actively expanding to assist neighbors in need, Lamy said.
“H2 Housing & Healthcare is the fourth new program brought on in the last 16 months,” he said.
Information: tempe.gov/ AffordableHousing.