Individuals experiencing severe health challenges and lengthy episodes of homelessness need more than permanent housing— they need a renewed sense of hope. The majority of chronically homeless people have endured abject poverty as well as severe medical, emotional, and social challenges. They are often estranged from their communities and suffer from low self-esteem and hopelessness. In order to overcome the difficulties that led them to the streets, chronically homeless individuals need compassion, respect and support. Linking housing and care, CLT’s supportive housing programs combats homelessness through a holistic, personalized approach.





Commonwealth Land Trust (CLT) owns and manages four supportive housing programs in the Greater Boston area serving over 250 individuals. The vast majority of CLT’s formerly homeless residents are struggling with multiple health problems, including physical disabilities, mental illness, addiction, and HIV/AIDS. CLT provides the on-site supportive services necessary for our residents to manage their health and thrive in permanent housing.


Upon move-in, CLT ensures that our residents’ basic needs are met. Clients are provided with a furnished room, shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, and access to an on-site food pantry. They are supported by CLT’s on-site medical case managers, supportive housing managers, overnight-weekend staff, and maintenance team. Case managers maintain offices in each of our supportive housing properties, providing clients with easy access to counseling, medication adherence training, and other vital services.


CLT’s holistic supportive housing model considers our residents’ whole person. We practice a client-centered approach to case management provision, recognizing that each of our residents has unique challenges and an important personal history. On-site case managers provide an array of services that reflect the multitude of challenges that can lead to homelessness, including medically-based services, drug and alcohol counseling, life skills training, and workforce readiness support. Although the majority of our residents are unable to work due to the severity of their disability, CLT encourages them to realize their individual goals, which may include volunteering, joining a support group, or reconnecting with their family.





Supportive housing has proven to be an effective, affordable solution for individuals experiencing lengthy and repeated episodes of homelessness. The vast majority of chronically homeless individuals rely on costly institutions like emergency shelters, emergency rooms, psychiatric facilities, and jails for temporary shelter. Supportive housing decreases homeless individuals’ reliance on these institutions, saving the US government millions of dollars each year.[i]


A 2004 study by the Partnership to End Long Term Homelessness estimated the cost per day of housing an individual in a hospital, mental hospital, prison, jail, shelter, and supportive housing setting. Their findings illustrate the striking cost-effectiveness of supportive housing compared to the other institutions that chronically homeless individuals interact with:


  • Hospital: $1,770
  • Mental Hospital: $541
  • Prison: $117.08
  • Jail: $91.78
  • Shelter: $40.28
  • Supportive Housing: $33.45 [ii]


Although the cost benefits of supportive housing are clear, they are also conservative as they do not take into account the quality of life and social costs (courts and police, accommodating homeless in public spaces, neighborhood quality, etc.) associated with homelessness.[i]








[i] Leslie Silletti, “The Costs and Benefits of Supportive Housing,” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center for Urban Initiative and Research (2005): 1-2

[ii] “Cost of Serving Homeless Individuals in Nine Cities,” The Lewin Group prepared for The Partnership to End Long Term Homelessness, accessed May 12th 2013,





Commonwealth Land Trust owns and manages over 100 units of family housing in Lower Roxbury and Chelsea, serving formerly homeless and low- to moderate-income families. Although 34% of CLT’s family housing residents are formerly homeless, their needs are very different from our supportive housing clients. Family housing residents do not receive case management services, but benefit from a responsive supportive housing manager and maintenance team. Click on the links to learn more about CLT’s Lower Roxbury Apartments and Chelsea Apartments.


CLT hosts events for family housing residents, such as garden clean ups, concerts, and a holiday toy drive. Residents of CLT’s Lower Roxbury Apartments take an active role in shaping their housing through a Residents’ Association that meets quarterly to discuss building and community issues.





Many families have lived in CLT housing for decades, including Richard Brown, Althea Niles, and Sara Rosa.  Click on the links below to learn about their lives and experiences at CLT.


Richard Brown

Althea Niles

Sara Rosa





Families with children are the fastest growing category of homeless people in the US.[i] 1.5 million children under age eighteen experience homelessness every year, spending their nights in emergency shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, and the streets.[ii] Families experiencing homelessness have increased from nearly nothing in the 1960s to accounting for over 40% of the homeless population in the 2000s.[iii]  


Family homelessness is closely associated with female-headed households and the economic hardships associated with being a single parent. As more families become dependent on a single wage earner, they are increasingly susceptible to adversity resulting from a job loss, health problem, or other difficulty. As with homelessness in individuals, family homelessness is inextricably linked to poverty. Other factors that lead to homelessness include domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, unemployment, and a lack of affordable housing.[iv]





Homelessness has a profoundly negative effect on the long-term well being of children. Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to suffer from poor health, demonstrating high rates of emergency room visits and delays in obtaining preventative care. In addition, they display increased rates of emotional, developmental, and behavioral problems.[v]


Many homeless children are in a state of constant transit, cycling through emergency shelters and overcrowded temporary living situations. Such mobility is highly detrimental to homeless children’s academic development. Researchers estimate that each change in schools results in a student becoming four to six months behind in their coursework. Mobility interferes with the stability of relationships and undermines students’ self-esteem and self-efficiency. Homeless students are two times more likely to have a learning disability and three times more likely to have behavioral problems than non-homeless students. A particularly sobering statistic is the fact that less than 1/4 of homeless students will graduate from high school.[vi]





The number of homeless families in Boston remained relatively unchanged from 1994 until 2005 when it began to show significant increases. This trend continued through 2008 when homeless families outnumbered homeless individuals for the first time. A record 3,870 people in families, predominantly single mothers and their children, were homeless. In 2009, there were 2,380 homeless children in Boston, a figure that has doubled since 2005.[vii]


Economic problems have fueled this trend, including rising unemployment, a loss of 19,000 jobs since 2008, and 4,000 foreclosures since 2007.[viii] These statistics underscore the need for more affordable housing in Boston, which would enable low-income families to remain in housing during adverse economic conditions.


CLT’s family housing in Lower Roxbury and Chelsea is an important affordable housing resource, providing formerly homeless and low- to moderate-income families with a permanent home and stability.





[i] Joseph Murphy, “Homeless Children and Youth at Risk: The Educational Impact of Displacement,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 16 (2011): 42.

[ii]  “Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of  People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, accessed May 16, 2013,

[iii] Murphy, “Homeless Children and Youth at Risk: The Educational Impact of Displacement,” 42.

[iv] Angela R. Fertig and David A. Reingold, “Homelessness Among At-Risk Families with Children in Twenty American Cities,” Social Service Review 82 (2008): 5-9.

[v] Tumaini R. Coker, Marc N. Elliott, David E. Kanouse, Jo Anne Frunbaum, Janice Gilliland, Susan R. Tortolero, Paula Cuccaro, and Mark Schuster, “Prevalence, Characteristics, and Associated Health and Health Care of Family Homelessness Among Fifth-Grade Students,” American Journal of Public Health 99-8 (2009): 1446.

[vi] Murphy, “Homeless Children and Youth at Risk: The Educational Impact of Displacement,” 42-51.

[vii] “Beyond Shelter: Boston’s Strategy to Reduce Homelessness,” City of Boston- Mayor Menino, accessed May 16 2013,’s%20Strategy%20to%20Reduce%20Homelessness%20June%202010_tcm3-17659.pdf.

[viii] ”Beyond Shelter: Boston’s Strategy to Reduce Homelessness.”