Nov 2, 2011

San Francisco Superior Court: Moving Toward Permanent Housing Program

[Funding for the “Moving Toward Permanent Housing Program” will end in December 2011. The Superior Court is seeking additional funding through foundations and federal grants. We welcome information from the field about other funding options.]

San Francisco Superior Court’s numerous collaborative courts address the substance abuse and/or mental health issues of offenders, an approach that has been credited with reducing incarceration rates, increasing self-sufficiency, and promoting greater independence for justice-involved individuals.

In San Francisco, recognition of the growth and effectiveness of collaborative courts has shifted the dialog from stand-alone specialty courts to a coordinated multi-system, citywide effort among attorneys, law enforcement, and community treatment and service agencies to improve outcomes for offenders, victims, and communities.

With San Francisco’s high cost of living and significant shortage of affordable housing, many persons experiencing substance addiction and criminal justice involvement are homeless or marginally housed. While permanent housing is the core of San Francisco’s 2008-2013 Five-Year Strategic Plan for Housing, there are minimal affordable units for this underserved population.

In 2009, with the support of Federal funds, the San Francisco Superior Court developed the Moving Toward Permanent Housing Initiative to expand housing opportunities for multiple collaborative court programs.

Transitional supportive housing is a central program component in collaborative courts, providing treatment stability for clients challenged by substance abuse and homelessness. In an evaluation of an earlier pilot program that focused on a transitional housing program for drug court clients, it was determined that clients who received housing stayed in the treatment program 72 days longer than the comparison group. Without stable housing, many defendants stay in jail longer than necessary, enter more restrictive treatment modalities simply to meet housing needs, enter a city shelter (an unstable option), or are released from jail with nowhere to go.

Lisa Lightman is the Director of San Francisco Collaborative Courts. She can be contacted at

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