Community Partnerships are Central to FUSE Initiative’s Success

For ShelterCare, collaboration is key in resolving the biggest issues around homelessness. From housing to health, we know it takes teamwork from our staff and community allies to ensure consumers are connected to the resources they need for more stable futures.

Accordingly, our agency is proud to be a partner of Lane County’s FUSE (“Frequent User Systems Engagement”) initiative, a housing program for individuals who have been the most “frequent utilizers” of Lane County’s public services including law enforcement, jails, and emergency medical services.

Based on a model from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, FUSE has been shown to improve outcomes amongst those experiencing chronic homelessness while reducing inefficiencies and overall costs in communities across the nation.

“Sometimes social challenges are so large and so complex that no one organization, no one service or specialty, no one source of funds or resources will achieve progress. ” said Susan Ban, executive drector for ShelterCare. “This is true with homelessness. Homelessness is a social ill that is hard to resolve. It takes a myriad of coordinated approaches to make an impact.”

In June 2016, Lane County’s Health & Human Services Division convened representatives from the health, behavioral health, criminal justice, social services, and housing sectors to share the FUSE program. In attendance were representatives—and now FUSE partners—from 18 different agencies including, but not limited to: ShelterCare, Eugene Police Department, Laurel Hill Center, McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, Springfield Police Department, Trillium Community Behavioral Health, and White Bird CAHOOTS.

“These are all systems that experience enormous pressures of demand that regularly outstrip their capacity to respond,” said Lane County Health & Human Services Director Karen Gaffney. “As cost savings are realized, those systems are able to focus efforts on addressing prevention, treatment, and corrections needs that are very real in the community.”

Every year, frequent utilizers experiencing homelessness absorb up to $34,500 per year in arrests, hospitalizations, and other services. For example, in 2015, 25 frequent utilizers accounted for 644 of the arrests in Lane County—an average of 31 arrests per person.

“One example of high-use individuals in the jail context is repeat, low-level offenders,” stated Lane County Jail Captain Dan Buckwald for a previous ShelterCare story. “The County pays an average of $170 per person per day to jail an arrestee. Reducing that load adds up quickly.”

For those in supported housing, such as through the FUSE program, it costs anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 per year. The money saved with the FUSE program, up to $28,500 per person housed, can benefit health care providers, law enforcement and jails, and mental health systems in Lane County.

Last year, Lane County’s Health & Human Services Division conducted a data cross-match which revealed a large number of shared clients amongst numerous public systems. This information led Lane County’s Health & Human Services Division to realize the extreme impacts homelessness has on public services, and the systemic change needed to break its costly cycle.

“This process led to a clear approach to identify those most frequent shared utilizers, and a Housing First model that focuses on collaborating and putting housing and case coordination at the forefront,” said Gaffney.

Partnering agencies contribute to Lane County’s FUSE initiative by providing staff time for the FUSE steering committee, case coordination, and data analytics for potential FUSE clients. To identify potential FUSE clients, partnering agencies share information about their frequent utilizers with Lane County, which is then compared and combined into a larger, final list.

With this collaborative list, ShelterCare’s Housing Intervention Program has been able to go into the community to seek out FUSE candidates, and provide them with the support and resources they need for more stable futures.

“One FUSE client was arrested nearly 30 times in 2016,” said Gaffney. “With housing and support from FUSE community partners, the client has been arrested zero times in 2017.” Another FUSE client had a combination of nearly 40 hospitalizations and emergency department visits in 2016 and has not returned to the hospital since securing housing and being connected to supportive services.

There are currently six individuals being housed through Lane County’s FUSE program, and a few have already exited the program to live in more permanent housing. Twenty-one others are enrolled in the program and waiting for housing to become available.

Related article: FUSE: Homeless Outreach in Action

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