Pathways to Housing Vermont

Pathways to Housing Vermont

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Pathways’ unique Housing First model provides apartments and supported services for people experiencing homelessness and psychiatric disabilities. We are piloting this model in a rural location for the first time.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the United State today there is an estimated (figures from SAMHSA) 842,000 adults and children are homeless in any given week, with that number growing to as many as 3.5 million over the course of a year. Thirty-nine percent of this number report some form of mental health problem, and 20 to 25 percent meet criteria for serious mental illnesses. People with serious mental illnesses have greater difficulty exiting homelessness than others. They are homeless more often and for longer periods of time than other homeless populations. Many have been on the streets for years. The majority of people with serious mental illnesses who are homeless had prior contact with the mental health system, either as an inpatient or outpatient. These experiences were not always positive; they may have been hospitalized involuntarily or given treatment services or medications that did not benefit them.
About You
Pathways to Housing Vermont
Section 1: You
First Name


Last Name



Pathways to Housing Vermont

Section 2: Your Organization
Organization Name

Pathways to Housing Vermont

Organization Phone


Organization Address

45 Kilburn Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Organization Country
Your idea
Country and state your work focuses on

, VT

What makes your idea unique?

Pathways to Housing believes that housing is a basic human right and aspire to change the practice of homeless services by: (a) providing immediate access to permanent, independent apartments, without preconditions; (b) setting the standard for services driven by consumer choice that support recovery and community integration; and (c) conducting research to find innovative solutions and best practices for those who have psychiatric disabilities and are experiencing homelessness. Pathways to Housing was founded in New York City in 1992 with the innovative Housing First model which successfully engages, houses, and supports homeless adults with psychiatric disabilities who have been living on the streets for years and facilitates their recovery and integration into their new communities.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Pathways helps individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness and live with psychiatric disabilities. Through our Housing First approach, we offer consumers the dignity of a place to live because (a) a home is what they want and (b) obtaining housing first is the approach that yields optimum results. It is the very act of giving people a way out of homelessness that immediately alleviates their suffering and dramatically improves the possibilities in their lives. The results of providing housing first include an 85% housing retention rate over five years as compared to other models and an annual public cost of approximately $16,000 per person compared to shelter costs of $40,000.


The steps we’re taking include (a) finding funding to cover all of the costs; (b) training and supporting staff in Housing First philosophy and practice; (c) finding affordable, available scattered site apartments; (d) listening to the people we serve as far as what they need, how we can help, and how we can better do our job.
The things that might prevent success are lack of funding for some key elements of the model.


Within five years, Pathways expects to house and serve a total of 215 adults with psychiatric disabilities and to develop a tested and nationally replicable Housing First model for a rural setting.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

We have the opportunity and the service dollars necessary to support 215 Vermonters with severe psychiatric disabilities in homes and end their miserable state of homelessness. Pathways has the expertise and the evidence based experience with our Housing First model to make this project a success.

Year one is familiar terrain for Pathways, as we will be working in an urban setting, Burlington. Year two and three will require coordination with local communities and adapting the model to a rural setting. We have already begun this work connecting with local Continuum of Care Committees, local designated mental health agencies, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health, local politicians, the Vermont state network of psychiatric survivors, housing authorities, and community leaders.

Listening to local community members and adjusting the model to meet the local needs will also be a critical component towards successfully adapting the model to a rural setting. Each local community will also have particular challenges (perhaps lack of affordable housing stock or past negative experiences with community members with psychiatric disabilities) that will need to be addressed individually, in a community culturally sensitive manner.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

As noted earlier, key funding that has been available for other Pathways’ projects, is not currently part of the Vermont Pathways’ budget.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

In what country?

, VT

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Pathways to Housing, Inc.

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Re-integrating folks with serious mental illness and chronic histories of homelessness (and often times experiences in jail or state hospitals) back into communities as tenants and community members requires the acceptance, support and participation of the whole community. Landlords need to agree to rent to people who might have had challenging housing experiences in the past; neighbors have to be willing to tolerate oddities as new tenants settle into the experience of having a home and the learning curve that sometimes comes with the rights and responsibilities of tenancy; and local area service providers have to communicate and coordinate services and supports for the newly housed tenants.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions are: (1) continued search for applicable funding to support our basic services; (2) development of services and activities that the consumers identify; and (3) establishment of strong bonds with local agencies, organizations, government bodies to ensure that the Housing First model is integrated into the community.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Imagine it is 1992 in New York City. You are a 51 year old white woman. Your name is Nel. There is a doorway on the south side of Grand Central that you like; room for your shopping cart, dark so people walking by don’t always notice. During the day you collect food from garbage bins outside of restaurants, and napkins from McDonalds or Deli’s to make a kind of diaper you wear (for the times there are no bathrooms).

Street outreach workers talk to you about taking medication and staying sober. They say if you stop drinking, take your meds, go into a transitional program, you could get housing. They don’t understand what happened in the bad place or how much you have to focus.

Then you meet a man named Sam. He sits next to you and asks how he can help. You tell him about the buzzing in your veins and the men that want to kill you, and yes, you want an apartment. Sam visits, brings you food, and says he is committed to helping you get an apartment.

One day Sam comes by and tells you he has been working hard and is finally able to ask if you want to see an apartment. He puts your cart in the back of his van and drives you to 57th Street. You are scared, but you trust him, and he promises to keep your cart safely locked in the van while you both look at the apartment.

It is a small two room apartment, with bars on the windows and deadbolts on the door that make you feel safe. There is a refrigerator, a stove, and a bathroom. Sam hands you the key, asks if you want to live here, and says it’s ok to bring your shopping cart inside.

Fast forward to 2010, and the not for profit that Dr. Sam Tsemberis founded in 1992, Pathways to Housing, has ended long term homelessness for thousands of people in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. People, like Nel, that program after program deemed. “not treatment compliant,” and “not ready for housing.”

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

The social innovator who established Pathways to Housing in 1992 is psychologist Sam Tsemberis, Ph.D. Mr. Tsemberis was working for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, treating homeless people with mental health and substance abuse problems, when he noticed that “business as usual” was not working. The most vulnerable population cycled repeatedly through the streets, emergency rooms, drop-in centers, shelters, and jail cells. When he asked them, “What is the first thing you want?”, they invariably answered, “A place to live.” From these repeated responses, the concept of Housing First was designed. Pathways believes that not only is housing a basic right but also that with psychiatric disabilities have the inherent ability to improve their lives.

Rather than exclude homeless people in isolated enclaves, Housing First brings them back into the greater community by providing permanent, independent, private apartments scattered throughout the community. It also does so with a consumer-directed focus—that consumers have a choice in the treatments they receive and in the development of their Individual Service Plan. Providing housing and holistic treatment enables our consumers to pull their lives together in a more meaningful way.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer