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Social Impact Bonds to Address Phoenix Homelessness

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Social impact bonds (SIBs) are a multi-year contract between social service providers, the government, and private investors. The three parties agree on a specific outcome for a societal issue. Investors

Social impact bonds (SIBs) are a multi-year contract between social service providers, the government, and private investors. The three parties agree on a specific outcome for a societal issue. Investors provide capital required for the service provider to operate the project. The service provider then delivers the service to the target population. The success of the project is evaluated by outside party. If the target outcome is met, the government repays the investors at a premium. Nonprofit service providers can only serve a small community as they lack the funding to scale their programs and their reliance on government funding and philanthropy leads to a lot of time focused on raising money in the short-term and inhibits them from evolving their programs and projects for long-term strategic success. Government budgets decline but social problems persist. These contracts share risk between the government and the investors and allow governments to test out programs and alleviate taxpayer burdens from unsuccessful social service programs. Arizona has a severe homelessness problem. Nightly, 6000 people are homeless in Maricopa County. In a given year, over 32,000 individuals were homeless, composed of single adults, families, children, and veterans. Homelessness is not only a debilitating and difficult experience for those who experience it, but also has considerable economic costs on society. Homeless individuals use a number of government programs beyond emergency shelters, and these can cost taxpayers billions of dollars per year. Rapid rehousing was a successful intervention model that the state has been heavily investing in the last few years. This thesis aimed to survey the Arizona climate and determine what barriers were present for enacting an SIB for homelessness. The findings showed that although there are many competent stakeholder groups, lack of interest and overall knowledge of SIBs prevented groups from taking responsibility as the anchor for such a project. Additionally, the government and nonprofits had good partnerships, but lacked relationships with the business community and investors that could propel an SIB. Finally, although rapid rehousing can be used as a successful intervention model, there are not enough years of proven success to justify the spending on an SIB. Additionally, data collection for homelessness programming needs to be standardized between all relevant partners. The framework for an SIB exists in Arizona, but needs a few more years of development before it can be considered.

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  • 2016-05