The following article was originally published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen on February 27th, 2020
Cross Park Place, a housing-first program by Shelter House, wrapped up construction just one year ago and was at full occupancy by June 2019. The program provides 24 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals for whom homelessness has become a chronic condition and people dealing with complex health and behavioral issues.
Thursday morning, Crissy Canganelli, the executive director of Shelter House, presented data gathered from Cross Park Place’s first year of operation.
“Through the evidence, we were able to show that permanent supportive housing reduces returns to jail, reduces utilization in medical systems and reliance on emergency health services, and overall improves the quality of life,” Canganelli said.
To get a sense of how housing impacted individuals, Shelter house took an accounting of Cross Park Place residents’ medical costs for the last four years. Fourteen of the 23 residents’ medical expenses were well below $200,000, one resident had expenses in excess of $1.8 million, in their prior four years. Based on figures Shelter House presented, these were well in excess of any legal or treatment related expenses.
For example, one resident between Feb. 5, 2018 and 2019 racked up five emergency room visits, nine inpatient admissions, four clinic appointments, and 10 no-show or canceled appointments. This totaled $211,617.05 in medical bills in just one year. After moving to Cross Park Place on February 5 2019 and as of November 15, the billed cost for the resident is $957.
According to an analysis by David Schwindt, the project manager for Iowa City Police Department’s Data Driven Justice program, the average number of nights in jail for residents in the three years prior to entering Cross Park Place was 107 nights. However, in the first three quarters since entry, Schwindt found that the average was far below that at around 28 nights.
Currently, Shelter House is working with the University of Iowa to develop a more formalized study of the program. Caganelli said she is immensely pleased both with the results she showed in the slides, but also the results they couldn’t.
“What’s not able to be captured by a slide here is to talk about just the incredible transition that it takes for a person to move from having lived outdoors. Some folks for over 30 years they’ve been homeless,” Caganellis said. “There’s no way to anticipate what that looks like and feels like.”