Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration continues to increase access to housing in the commonwealth. Over the past two years, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has served 10 percent more people in the community. Specifically, there was:
- A 15 percent increase in people over the age of 60 who are receiving home- and community-based waivers;
- A 25 percent increase in people under the age of 60 who are receiving attendant care services;
- A 24 percent increase in Pennsylvanians receiving services through the LIFE program; and
- A 20 percent increase in persons with developmental disabilities who are served in home- and community-based long-term care waiver services.
“The focus that the Department of Human Services has placed on housing is allowing older Pennsylvanians and individuals with a disability to live in their communities – where they want to be,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Housing is a critical determinant to a person’s health and well-being. It imperative that we are able to provide those in need with access to safe, quality, affordable housing, and the supports necessary to maintain that housing.”
“We are deeply committed to serving more people in the community. Pennsylvanians are clear that they want to receive services in the community and not an institution or facility,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “Today’s announcement shows that we are listening to them and moving in the right direction. I would also like to thank DHS staff and our sister agencies whose hard work made these increases possible.”
Since the beginning of the Wolf Administration in January 2015, DHS focused on expanding access to affordable housing, strengthening housing-related services, and promoting state and local teamwork to better serve:
- Individuals who live in institutions, but could live in the community with housing services and supports;
- Individuals and families who experience homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness; and
- Individuals who have extremely low incomes or whose rents are too high and are unaffordable.
To achieve this goal, DHS has expanded the use of nursing home transition, increased the number of counties served by LIFE providers across the state, and increased funding for waivers that allow Pennsylvanians to remain in their homes. At the same time, the department launched Community HealthChoices, an initiative that will help the commonwealth increase the number of seniors and individuals with physical disabilities who can live in the community.
In addition to these efforts, the department also hired a housing director in April 2016 to oversee all of the department’s housing programs and coordinate with housing partners such as the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. In May 2016, the housing director oversaw the creation of the DHS five-year housing strategy, a comprehensive plan to connect Pennsylvanians to affordable, integrated, and supportive housing. Some of the initiatives that were launched as a result of the plan include the following:
Expanded Access to Affordable Housing:
- TANF Rapid Re-Housing: DHS, through a partnership with the City of Philadelphia, has housed 22 families experiencing homelessness. In 2017, an additional 28 families experiencing homelessness will be rapidly re-housed.
- Fairweather Lodges: Pennsylvania is home to 42 lodges, three of which are for veterans. These lodges use a psychosocial rehabilitation model in which residents live together and run or participate in a business that provides them with employment. Currently, 218 Pennsylvanians live in these lodges. In 2016, DHS planned to add 10 new lodges for future development, five of which will occur in 2017.
- Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA): The 811 PRA Program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and DHS to provide persons with disabilities and extremely low incomes access to affordable, integrated, and accessible housing while ensuring access to long-term services and supports in the community.
- The PHFA administers 811 funds to provide project-based rent assistance that pays the difference between 30 percent of a tenant’s monthly income and the approved fair market rent for an 811 apartment. DHS works closely with the local housing referral networks to identify and refer eligible applicants. To date, 48 individuals with disabilities and extremely low-incomes were housed in either 811-subsidized apartments or through Housing Choice Vouchers that were provided by public housing authorities as a portion of their commitments to the 811 program.
Strengthened Housing-Related Services: Nearly $80 million in housing-related services supported Pennsylvanians to transition back to their communities, maintain their own homes, and obtain critical services like emergency home heating assistance, homeless assistance, and home accessibility modifications. In 2016:
- The Homeless Assistance Program recorded 77,419 cases of assistance for individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
- The Emergency Shelter Allowance Program served 3,738 households who were at-risk of homelessness.
- The TANF Diversion Program assisted 37,693 families who were experiencing a crisis. Homelessness and near homelessness qualify as a crisis.
- The LIHEAP program helped keep 467,815 Pennsylvanians’ homes safe and warm by providing heating assistance.
DHS helps people to remain in their own homes, and when possible, transitions people out of nursing facilities and back into their communities:
- 172 waiver recipients received assistance for Community Transition Services (CTS) through DHS’ Nursing Home Transition Program. These Community Transition Services were funded through the Home and Community Based Waivers for home furnishings, moving expenses, security deposits and environmental safeguards to allow them to live in the community; this is 15% more people receiving assistance than in the previous year.
- 68 people received one time rental assistance through the NHT Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program (NHT TBRA) and 204 individuals received ongoing rental assistance for up to two years while they await for a permanent housing choice voucher to become available.
- 3,973 people moved into new homes or were able to stay in their homes because special accessibility adaptations or modifications were completed.
Promoted State and Local Teamwork: In an effort to better coordinate the commonwealth’s housing efforts, DHS conducted outreach to local and state governmental, non-government agencies, and for profit and non-profit agencies:
- PHFA, in partnership with DHS, launched an online tool called Prescreening, Assessment, Intake, and Referral (PAIR). PAIR is designed for the 811 Project Rental Assistance Program and is used by the local housing referral networks to screen and refer 811 applicants to participating properties that have vacancies.
- DHS, in partnership with PHFA, also strengthened and expanded the scope of work for the Self Determination Housing Project’s (SDHP) RHC program to include the 811 program. SDHP will share its housing expertise and training to a broader audience to include people with mental health, physical, and intellectual disabilities.
For more information on DHS’ housing strategy, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.