How Three Communities are Developing Supportive Housing to Improve Access for People with Behavioral Health Needs Leaving Incarceration

December 8, 2022

The affordable housing crisis has increased the need for new housing developments in communities across the U.S., particularly for people leaving prison and jail who have behavioral health needs. To support these efforts, some local leaders have started developing supportive housing, which is an evidence-based intervention that combines affordable housing with wraparound services and has no residency time limit. 

In 2021, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) held a series of Communities of Practice to learn from these leaders and aid them in furthering their development goals. This is the second in a series of web articles intended to elevate themes from these sessions and bring lessons learned to a broader audience.   

Below, this article highlights three jurisdictions doing the work to create and sustain housing opportunities for people leaving incarceration who have behavioral health needs. Each of these jurisdictions has started cultivating cross-system partnerships to educate funders, developers, supportive service providers, and property managers on the components and dimensions of quality supportive housing; is conducting organizational readiness assessments to identify the strengths and gaps in proposed development projects; and is gaining buy-in from the community to overcome Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) stigma. These three key components have helped them prepare for the development of supportive housing in their communities and position them to achieve the political will and community buy-in to make supportive housing development possible. 

  • Fairfield County, Ohio 
    • Priority population: People released from incarceration in need of housing options. 
    • Development strategy: County officials plan to leverage best practices from similar rural communities to increase housing unit production. This plan includes: 
      • Conducting a readiness assessment; 
      • Working with rural, nonprofit agencies to develop affordable housing units for the priority population; and 
      • Centering people’s lived experience with the criminal justice system and homelessness in the planning, development, and operations of new affordable housing projects. 
    • Next steps: The county intends to: (1) utilize capacity building opportunities such as CSH’s Supportive Housing Institute, which trains supportive housing partners on how to navigate the complex process of developing housing with supportive services and delivering high quality housing and services in a rural setting; and (2) establish public/private partnerships to develop supportive housing projects throughout the county and secure the funding necessary for sustainable operations and long-term affordability.   


  • San Diego County, California 
    • Priority population: People with complex behavioral health needs leaving prison or jail or who have been diverted from the justice system and are facing homelessness. 
    • Development strategy: State and county officials are partnering to align funding resources and policies in an effort to increase local housing inventory for the priority population. 
    • Next steps: The combined state and county team plans to engage the newly created county Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities to reduce barriers and increase pathways to housing for the priority population. The team hopes to increase cross-system collaborations among justice system and homelessness response system leaders, improve current workflows used to assess for housing needs, and better connect people to housing in the community. The team also plans to continue leveraging government funding at the federal, state, and local levels (as well as private, philanthropic dollars and other grant awards) to support housing efforts. 


  • Southern Nevada Regional 
    • Priority population: Adults leaving local jail and state prison who have a serious mental illness or co-occurring substance use disorders. 
    • Development strategy: Advocates and coalition builders are employing evidence-based practices such as supportive housing trainings through efforts like ElevateNV’s Supportive Housing Incubator Academy. This approach is intended to help communities throughout Nevada cultivate partners and gain buy-in from funders, developers, supportive service providers, and property managers on the benefits of quality supportive housing for reentry and pre-jail diversion programs focused on housing. 
    • Next steps: Regional partners hope to improve access to appropriate levels of residential housing and direct funding for rental and board assistance while in transition. The regional partners will work to identify (1) reentry housing pathways and expand housing options for returning community members and (2) funding streams to maximize housing partnerships and opportunities. This includes funding streams for treatment and wraparound service components. 


For jurisdictions interested in planning and developing their own supportive housing units, the additional following resources can help: 

Not a Solo Act: This workbook by CSH is a how-to guide for successful collaborations and for preventing predictable crises.  

Race Equity in Housing details CSH’s Race Equity Framework, which provides practical approaches for organizations and practitioners seeking to center racial equity in their work to end homelessness and advance housing solutions that are grounded in equity.  

Community Buy-In for Affordable Housing is a webinar hosted by the CSG Justice Center and representatives from California and Oregon. 

Supportive Housing Training Center is a repository of training solutions offered by CSH that empower people to learn about, build, and provide high-quality supportive housing in their community.


Photo credit: Photo by Kelly via Pexels

About the author

brooke page headshot
Director of the Southwest Geography, CSH
Brooke Page is a strategic thinker and solutions focused advocate with 20+ years’ experience in human service administration to include nonprofit, state and local government program management, and administration. As the director of the southwest geography at the Corporation for
Supportive Housing (CSH), Brooke is responsible for managing and delivering technical assistance with a focus on engaging systems, aligning resources to create new units of supportive housing, and ensuring the delivery of equitable and quality services for people and families who have complex barriers that impact access to housing. Brooke is working to elevate CSH’s field operations and policy advocacy efforts within multiple sectors of care to showcase emerging practices that support long-term housing solutions for people with complex barriers to housing.
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Project Manager, Behavioral Health
Thomas Coyne provides technical assistance to jurisdictions addressing the housing needs of people with mental illnesses who are involved with the criminal justice system. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, he worked on health and housing policy with the
Health & Housing Integration team at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He brings field experience from social work, having worked extensively with people who have serious mental illnesses in Washington, DC, as well as with families reuniting with their children from foster care in Michigan. Thomas earned his BS in criminal justice and BA in sociology from Madonna University and his MPP from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University.
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