Permanent Supportive Housing

Permanent Supportive Housing Program

Our Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) provides long-term housing with ongoing case management for clients leaving the streets/shelters and not yet able to be fully independent. Permanent supportive housing is a proven solution to homelessness for the most vulnerable, chronically-homeless people– pairing housing with case management and supportive services. The PSH model is evidence-based, and has proven the cost/benefit of providing housing and reducing the negative consequences of drug/alcohol use. Unlike other systems, this model promotes housing first rather than requiring that clients solve their problems with substance abuse, mental illness and poverty while they are still homeless. The primary goal of PSH case management is to ensure clients remain housed and do not return to homelessness. Other goals include increasing income, developing self-care skills in the areas of mental and physical health, developing positive relationships, and becoming an active and contributing member of a community.

Permanent Supportive Housing Success: Roy’s Story

Roy grew up in West Texas and in the Texas Hill Country. He learned how to be a mechanic, how to fly airplanes, how to weld. Learning new skills came easy to him. Despite his talents and gifts, he describes himself as a quitter. “I’ve been a quitter all my life,” he says. “I quit church, I quit school, I quit jobs, and relationships, and even a marriage. I quit what I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t quit what I should.”

The things Roy refers to when he talks about what he should have quit were his addictions. Throughout his life, Roy struggled with his relationship to alcohol and drugs. “I’m not sure I know why my addictions started,” he says. “It’s hard to be true with yourself, because the truth hurts. Was it to fit in? To make money? It might have been neither. It might have been both.” His addictions ebbed and flowed. At one point he was relatively sober and spent 10 years as the second in command at an air conditioning company.

Eventually his struggle with alcohol and drugs led to his going to jail. When he came out, he was without everything, and turned more heavily towards his previous demons. Finally, Roy ended up at the ARCH. He started staying in the shelter and was quickly referred to case management. Case Managers helped Roy find housing. Because of health care issues from chronic homelessness, Roy’s disabilities (including blindness) made him a candidate for PSH, where there would be assistance during and after the transition to leaving the shelter for a small studio apartment. The day his housing went through “was a damn miracle.” Roy participated in Streets of Hope too, in an effort to keep his addictions at bay.

Roy doesn’t consider his story to be a success story, but with some prompting he admits he has had successes. He now has his own place to stay at night. He has a mind at least temporarily freed from addiction. ” I hope I don’t wind up back down there. I had to break the cycle. I didn’t get here overnight, and I won’t get back overnight. But I believe I’ve made that U-turn, and I’m headed away from that dead end.”

“Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) the Housing First approach for individuals with chronic illness, mental health issues, disabilities, or substance use. PSH is low-barrier, with people being served at all stages of change. Research is clear, Housing First improves outcomes on many of the issues noted, in fact improved outcomes often happen naturally as a result of being housed. Front Steps’ Permanent Supportive Housing is a scattered site model, so clients have the choice to live in a neighborhood they prefer, close to a doctor, church, AA meeting or other neighborhood feature that they prefer. We want the clients we have housed to integrate into their community. I believe in Housing First because when you see somebody get their own place, it is more than a roof over their head. It is security and stability. When someone feels safe, they are in a better place to address the barriers that have kept them un-housed. When you are homeless you are in fight or flight mode, always on alert, and it is hard to remember things like “take your medication every day” when coping with staying safe. Front Steps’ PSH uses trauma informed care, recognizing that homelessness is a symptom of a bigger problem AND acknowledging that the client is the expert on their own life. We are simply adding the skills to be safer and secure in housing.”


Joshua Lewandowski, PSH Program Manager for Front Steps

A statement from Haggai Eshed, President of the Front Steps Board of Directors 

As of September 30, Austin Public Health will terminate all contracts with Front Steps.  

This termination is difficult news for all of us. It is especially concerning because there has never been a time when the coordination and success of homeless service providers in our community matter more than now. 

Most importantly, our clients will continue to have access to our services and programs. Programs for all clients will continue as usual.   

“In the height of the pandemic, our organization experienced multiple organizational challenges, including major staffing changes and vacancies. The magnitude of these issues now is where we need to pivot our operations,” Haggai Eshed, President of the Front Steps Board of Directors, said. “As a former Front Steps staff member, and now as Board President, it is my responsibility that, in the face of uncertainty, the continuation of client services during this transition is our top priority.” 

For 25 years, Front Steps has helped clients navigate wait lists, overcome personal setbacks, cope with negative public opinion and manage the daily stresses of being on the streets or in shelter settings. With our around-the-clock presence, many people experiencing homelessness in Austin would be without life-saving shelter and resources. We recognize this also impacts Front Steps’ hardworking, dedicated frontline staff. 

While the city begins to work with homeless service providers to absorb current contracts that include the operation of the Southbridge Shelter, our Permanent Supportive Housing programs, and the ARCH function, there are more than 250 clients enrolled in these three programs. We are committed to continuing their services through the end of our fiscal year, September 30, 2022. 

When this transition is complete, our nonprofit partners in this work – already operating at maximum capacity – will be responsible for the care of our clients. Your support for their work is crucial as the need is great and resources are thin as nonprofits are significantly impacted by the increased social and economic instability we all face. 

Over the next 90 days, we are committed to working alongside Austin Public Health to maintain stability. We will work to ensure that this transition protects our clients and maintains the integrity of our organization.