Blog: Amplify

Ideas to Impact: A Tool that Places Homeless Individuals in Supportive Housing

Scotty calls himself “the medical miracle.” By the time he was 15 years old, he had been hospitalized 23 times and thrown out of his last foster home because of mounting medical bills. Scotty suffers from a rare genetic disorder that prevents his body from metabolizing protein, a condition that landed him in the hospital consistently during childhood and plagued his adult life in the form of seizures and blackouts that made it impossible to hold a steady job. His chronic unemployment made health insurance unaffordable, and left him unable to manage his medical condition. As a result, he remained chronically homeless, struggled with a drug addiction that aggravated his medical issues, and lost touch with his children and family over the years.

Scotty’s life looks very different today. Since February 2012 he has been living in supportive housing, which is affordable housing that provides access to health and social services such as mental health and addiction therapy, medical care, case management, and employment services. During this time Scotty reduced his hospital visits from 52 down to just three. He also has a service dog, which he affectionately named Momas, and he volunteers at his church as an usher.

Scotty was connected to supportive housing services by OPCC and the Los Angeles Economic Roundtable after being identified as a high-need and high-use individual using the 10th Decile Triage Tool. Created by the Economic Roundtable, this tool allows hospitals to quickly recognize which homeless patients are most in need of supportive housing services—and are in the top 10 percent of hospital system users—and to move them to permanent housing in the care of organizations like OPCC.

Through funding from CSH and the Social Innovation Fund, the Economic Roundtable has been able to spread the adoption of the tool to more participating hospitals and partner organizations like OPCC. As a result, more chronically homeless individuals are getting connected to supportive housing and the consistent care that they need, while also reducing the strain on public service institutions.

Scotty’s story not only represents the impact that nonprofit organizations and their partners create in our communities by transforming the lives of people in need. It also demonstrates how nonprofits are pursuing new approaches to extend their reach and impact, some that involve organizational growth and others that do not. By emphasizing the spread and adoption of a proven tool, CSH and the Economic Roundtable were able to look beyond their own organizational walls to make faster progress to advance their missions and create more value for their communities.

For funders that want their limited grant dollars to have the greatest impact possible, investing in the spread of a new idea or tool carries enormous potential, especially at a time when we are all struggling to do more with less. This trend is explored further in GEO’s newest publication, Pathways to Grow Impact—based on a collaborative project with Ashoka, Social Impact Exchange, Taproot Foundation, and TCC Group—that presents a framework for understanding the different strategies nonprofits are pursuing and the grantmaker practices that support these efforts.

To learn about other success stories like Scotty’s from nonprofits and grantmakers involved in the Social Innovation Fund, visit GEO’s Scaling What Works initiativehere.

Meghan Duffy is manager of special initiatives at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

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