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Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing in South Bend: Updates & Helpful Info

“The process of creating this type of affordable housing can be incredibly complex. Through the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Institute we, along with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), have the unique opportunity to work alongside development teams, before they submit a funding application, to support them in their efforts to create housing that will benefit individuals and families experiencing long-term and chronic homelessness.”
Jacob Sipe, Executive Director of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority | June, 25 2019


Over five years ago, South Bend Heritage, the City of South Bend, local health systems, and homeless service providers began researching the development of Permanent Supportive Housing as a critical method to break the cycle of homelessness. After extensive research and public discussion, a team was organized to plan a PSH project in South Bend. In 2015, IHCDA selected the South Bend team to participate in their PSH Institute, and South Bend was subsequently awarded funding to develop a PSH project. In the fall of 2017, South Bend Heritage opened Oliver Apartments to house homeless individuals in South Bend. Located on the old Oliver School site at Indiana Ave and Kemble Street, Oliver Apartments features 32 one bedroom, one bath apartments. Oliver Apartments is designed to offer individuals that are homeless a place to live and access supportive services.

Responding to ongoing community need and building on the success demonstrated at Oliver Apartments, in 2018 South Bend Heritage, the City of South Bend, and Oaklawn were again selected to participate in IHCDA’s PSH Institute, and were awarded funding for a second PSH development. During 2019, the PSH team researched several potential development sites, and a lot in the 1500 block of W. Washington St was selected as the top site for a new development. Unfortunately, after extensive public engagement, education, and discussion, the rezoning of the site was not approved by the City Council. This process resulted in the PSH team being strongly advised by local elected leaders, stakeholders, and community activists to continue to educate the community about PSH and to complete the development in the Northeast or Southeast sectors of the City that are currently zoned to accommodate apartments and fulfill the requirements of a PSH development, rather than the Westside of South Bend.

Throughout 2019 and into 2020, we have seen the emerging need for more supportive housing units. We are encouraged by the renewed focus and awareness that is being generated by fellow, local homeless advocacy groups. The recommendations contained in the City’s Homelessness Working Group Report and the objectives noted in the St. Joseph Housing Consortium Housing & Community Development Plan continue to serve as the guide for the work the PSH Team is doing.

For more information about the work we’ve been doing over the past year, see video, links, and news stories below.

To provide input, comments, or questions about the City’s plans to address homelessness, email:

“While we were momentarily disappointed with the rezoning for sure, our hearts were lifted to have residents express their overall support for PSH. In the spirit of community it was a good process that facilitated a lot of necessary dialogue about supportive housing and harm reduction as a vital part of our city’s approach to addressing homelessness. So while the project was canceled for the moment in that place, in that time, allies were identified and our efforts were strengthened.”

Deb Stanley, Imani Unidad & SBH Board Member


Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing is part of the Housing First model, and is an innovative approach to engage and rapidly house individuals who are homeless, providing intensive and flexible services to stabilize and support housing tenure. This approach ends their homelessness and serves as a platform from which they can pursue goals and improve their quality of life. The PSH strategy is vital because persons experiencing homelessness are often unable to meet the requirements of other types of housing or shelter. Services are readily available with staff continually working to engage and build relationships with the PSH residents. 

Principles of Harm Reduction

Definition taken from

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

However, HRC considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice:

  • • Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
  • • Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
  • • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
  • • Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
  • • Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
  • • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
  • • Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.

Many communities struggle with providing permanent supportive housing (PSH) for individuals experiencing homelessness. Providing PSH as a viable solution to breaking the cycle of homelessness often generates a plethora of public input that must be valued and considered as communities address their homeless challenge. While some communities may endeavor to control the siting or placement of PSH in any form, it is critical to understand that individuals experiencing homelessness have a right to fair housing as protected persons, some with disabilities. The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), Indiana Fair Housing Act (IHA), and numerous privacy policies exist to prevent public disclosures of the placement and location of portable housing vouchers or project based rental vouchers in order to avoid housing discrimination and an inability to find rental properties for individuals seeking housing and those providing rental housing.

Under FHA, if an individual is disparately impacted who is a member of a protected class, disclosing the location of a portable or project based voucher could be considered discriminatory against current and potential tenants. IFA also indicates that most of the individuals utilizing the voucher programs are part of a protected class, therefore public notice of their rental housing and location could be considered discriminatory and a violation of their privacy rights. Further, under Housing Assistant Payments Contract (HAP), HUD and IFA, it would be discriminatory for rental property owners to disclose voucher locations to the public if it potentially places those seeking housing at risk of losing housing. 

Under federal law, chronically homeless is defined as an individual or family that-

-Is homeless and lives or resides in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an emergency shelter;

-Has been homeless and living or residing in a place not meant for human habitation, as safe haven, or in an emergency shelter continuously for at least 1 year or on at least 4 separate occasions in the last three years; and

-Has an adult head of house hold (or a minor head of household if no adult is present in the household) with diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability (as defined in section 15002), post traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairments resulting from brain injury, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of 2 or more of those conditions. 42 U.S.C 11360.

Federal law further defines Homeless Individuals with a disability under subsection 2 as follows:

An individual that is homeless and has a disability that-

-Is expected to be long continuing or of indefinite duration;

-Substantially impedes the individuals ability to live independently;

-Could be improved by the provision of more suitable housing conditions; and

-Is a physical, mental, or emotional impairment, including an impairment caused by alcohol or drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, or brain injury;

-Is a developmental disability or is a disease of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or any condition arising from the etiologic agency for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

  1. Health – supportive housing helps get appropriate care for residents’ health conditions, improving both mental and physical health.  
  2. Sustainability – PSH provides residence with a safe environment, which allows them to maintain stable living conditions. 
  3. Financial Savings – providing access to housing generally results in fewer uses of emergency services, including hospitals, jails, and emergency shelter, resulting in cost savings for the community. 

Yes! There are many studies that have shown that PSH resolves homelessness, increases housing stability, and increases community health by decreasing emergency room and clinic usage – and also lowers the cost for the community as a whole for these services. More in-depth studies completed on PSH find clients report an increase in levels of independence, choice, and control while in PSH. A majority of clients participate in optional supportive services provided, resulting in greater housing stability. Clients using supportive services are more likely to participate in job training programs, attend school, discontinue substance abuse, have fewer domestic violence instances and spend fewer days hospitalized than those not participating.

South Bend Heritage and partners are planning to develop a 22 unit apartment community. This community will support persons with a disability who are experiencing chronic homelessness (This development is different than Oliver Apts which is designed for persons who are frequent users of supportive services, like jails, emergency rooms, shelters, and clinics). We are also planning on having permanent supportive housing in scattered sites throughout the city.

The proposed new construction apartments will be located at Hope Avenue on the City’s east side. Click here for more information about this initiative.

-Support local homeless advocacy and support groups: Faith in Indiana, Center for the Homeless, South Bend Heritage, Youth Service Bureau

-Engage with the Region 2A Planning Council. Contact Lani Vivirito for more information:

-Consider joining the South Bend Health & Public Safety Committee. See committee list here.

Understand: There are many reasons way a person becomes homeless – lack of affordable housing, job loss, divorce, illness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, etc. One of the first steps you can take toward helping the homeless population is try to understand how they got there in the first place and their individual circumstance.

Show Reverence: Don’t treat a homeless person a if he/she were invisible. A simple “good morning” can go a long way! Many people experiencing homelessness say that the loss of dignity that accompanies their situation is harder to bear than the actual loss of physical things.

Donate: Clothing is a big one here, as are shoes and food. Non-perishable items are always in short supply at apartments, food pantries, and homeless shelters. Other items that might be needed are blankets, coats, book, and small kitchens items like cups and plates. If you are donating to a homeless shelter or another organization that helps the homeless, consider donating office supplies, electronics, appliances, phone cards, or other items that might help those who help thee homeless or PSH residents.

Volunteer: Perhaps there is a way to directly assist your new neighbor. Ask your PSH provider for ways you can volunteer directly with the residents. Put your skills to good use by sharing them with people experiencing homelessness or living in PSH. Organize a workshop, special resident meeting, or individual session to teach something helpful. Those new skills – some as seemingly basic as using a phone or computer or grocery shopping – might help a PSH resident stabilize, beginning to volunteer themselves, and work toward an even better, more independent life.

Educate: Now that you have a better understanding about PSH, inform your family, friends, and peers about the benefits and why PSH is so important for our vulnerable homeless population. 

“The tent camp is a symbol of systemic failure here in this local community. We are facing an urgent public health crisis. I think the solution is not to blame the people who are in the tents but to take responsibility as a local community for finding options to offer permanent supportive housing.”

Margaret Pfeil, Director: Catholic Worker, From Jeff Parrot, South Bend Tribune | May 14, 2020

Helpful Resources