Permanent supportive housing: assessing the evidence

Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Mar 1;65(3):287-94. doi: 10.1176/


Objectives: Permanent supportive housing provides safe, stable housing for people with mental and substance use disorders who are homeless or disabled. This article describes permanent supportive housing and reviews research.

Methods: Authors reviewed individual studies and literature reviews from 1995 through 2012. Databases surveyed were PubMed, PsycINFO, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress, the Educational Resources Information Center, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. The authors chose from three levels of evidence (high, moderate, and low) on the basis of benchmarks for the number of studies and quality of their methodology. They also described the evidence of service effectiveness.

Results: The level of evidence for permanent supportive housing was graded as moderate. Substantial literature, including seven randomized controlled trials, demonstrated that components of the model reduced homelessness, increased housing tenure, and decreased emergency room visits and hospitalization. Consumers consistently rated this model more positively than other housing models. Methodological flaws limited the ability to draw firm conclusions. Results were stronger for studies that compared permanent supportive housing with treatment as usual or no housing rather than with other models.

Conclusions: The moderate level of evidence indicates that permanent supportive housing is promising, but research is needed to clarify the model and determine the most effective elements for various subpopulations. Policy makers should consider including permanent supportive housing as a covered service for individuals with mental and substance use disorders. An evaluation component is needed to continue building its evidence base.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Mental Disorders / economics*
  • Mentally Ill Persons*
  • Public Housing / standards*