Special Needs Housing
The Phoenix House project is a partnership between Housing Opportunities of SW Washington (HOSWWA) and the Cowlitz Family Health Center – the service provider. HOSWWA developed this $3.2 million project which opened for occupancy April of 2009. HOSWWA owns and manages the facility. Cowlitz Family Health Center provides the service enrichment components to the residents with funding provided by Washington Families Fund grant.
Residents in this project will consist of parent(s) with substance abuse problems who have children and/or are pregnant and their dependent children. The parents in this project will all have completed substance abuse residential treatment. In addition, they will have either co-occurring barriers such as mental health issues, domestic violence, chronic illness, etc, and will be dealing with Child Protective Services. Many of the children have experienced significant emotional problems as a result of the trauma of homelessness and a chaotic family life.
Phoenix House fills a gap in housing availability and service coordination. The lack of suitable housing support has been the single biggest problem that perpetuates a cycle of treatment failure, relapse, repeated homelessness, and despair for these families.
The need for permanent supportive housing for parents with substance abuse problems who have children and/or are pregnant, and their dependent children who have substance abuse issues grew out of a series of newspaper articles, beginning with a September 25, 2003 article is the Daily News, that documented that Cowlitz County was experiencing an “epidemic” of drug babies being born in the County. Doctors at the local medical center, St. John’s, identified that between 10 and 20% of the babies born in the hospital had methamphetamines in their systems at birth. As a result of the Daily News article, the Drug Abuse Prevention Center developed a full continuum of treatment services for pregnant/parenting single parents. As of September 2008, a total of 104 babies have been born to substance abusing mothers in DAPC’s programs. A total of 97 (93%) were born drug free. However, there was a huge shortage of resources available to the mothers and infants once they complete and leave residential treatment. Most single parents who have a history of drug abuse lacked the financial resources to secure safe and decent housing. These parents did not have the income to pay the rent nor did they have the funds for deposits needed to secure housing. In addition, most property owners are not willing to rent to a person with a history of drug use. Finally these parents were homeless prior to entering treatment and did not have a home to return to upon the completion of their residential treatment program.
This project continues to provide a model of services-enriched housing that does not exist anywhere else in Cowlitz County, by combining permanent supported housing, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, specialized children’s services, physical health care, domestic violence, and/or sexual assault services, family reunification, individual case management, and access to vocational services and other services as required on an individual basis. The program provides parents the means to manage their co-occurring barriers, learn parenting skills, and to prepare for independent living. This is a critical aspect towards breaking the inter-generational cycle of babies being born drug affected, that helps to prevent fetal alcohol births, promotes family reunification and supports children who have been victimized by their chaotic circumstances. Families in this project receive highly integrated and continuously seamless care that assures coordination and continuity of all aspects of their housing, services, and treatment while in Phoenix House and into the future.
The Drug Abuse Prevention Center’s Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) refers families to CFHC. PCAP is a program developed by the University of Washington, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. PCAP began as a federally funded research project, first implemented in Seattle in 1991 and has consistently demonstrated positive outcomes for the families they have served. PCAP utilizes paraprofessional advocates who stay with families for 3 years and connects them to needed treatment, services and supports.
During the course of PCAP’s work, it had become increasingly clear that the single biggest barrier they faced was the lack of an appropriate service supported housing resource. Since it’s inception, PCAP had been forced to rely on scattered or “make do” housing locations that were plagued by a lack of resources, a lack of integrated treatment, service gaps and even conflicting goals among agencies at widely disparate geographic locations.
The needs of these families are great. The support needed to create a stable and safe housing environment for these parents is significant. These parents will be engaged in early and fragile recovery efforts, will have a high risk of relapse, will have few life skills, poor parenting skills, tenuous psychiatric stability and highly vulnerable young children and infants. The program will require on-site staffing support 24 hours, seven days per week. It will also require staffing to coordinate a variety of services wrapped around the project from off-site locations.
CFHC and HOSWWA have leveraged a significant amount of annual service funds and will have positive operating cash flow that will also be used to support services. These funds will come from the Community Trade and Economic Development Operations and Maintenance Funds, from the resident’s contribution to the rent, from Cowlitz County House Bill 2163 funds, and local fund raising efforts.
For information contact:
Cowlitz Family Health Center