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Housing First: Evaluation of Harm Reduction Housing for Chronic Public Inebriates.
Project duration: 7/2005-7/2008
Sponsor: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Subtance Abuse Policy Research Program
Award: $400,000

Since the decriminalization of public drunkenness in the 1970s, little has been done to address the problems chronic public inebriates (CPIs) pose to Seattle and surrounding communities. CPIs are heavy utilizers of taxpayer-funded public health and criminal justice systems.

Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center has begun construction on the first supportive housing project in Seattle dedicated to this population. The project will provide housing and on-site supportive services for 75 individuals without the requirement of abstinence or participation in a treatment program.

Working in collaboration with the University of Washington, this study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will evaluate the effectiveness of the housing project's two major objectives: 1) saving the community money through suppression of public crisis system costs, and 2) improving quality of life for housing residents. Study participants will consist of 115 CPIs who have been highly ranked in terms of their number of alcohol-related admissions to hospital emergency departments, jails and sobering centers. Participants will be randomized into an immediate (n = 75) or waitlist (n = 50) housing status, and evaluated over multiple time points in order to assess tax-payer funded service usage, alcohol use, mental health status, and other indices of adjustment.

Potential local and national policy implications to be gained from this research are significant.