Our History

Over fifteen years ago...

A diverse group gathered by the Corporation for Supportive Housing met to discuss a growing concern. They realized that some Minnesotans consistently relied on emergency systems for their basic needs--shelter, medical care, food, medications, etc.--and had so for years. It was costing the system a lot and people weren't getting healthier. They decided to try a relatively new approach - permanent supportive housing - and study whether it offered a more effective solution. They designed the Supportive Housing and Managed Care Pilot.

In 1999, Hearth Connection was born to put the Pilot in action.

Based in Ramsey and Blue Earth Counties, the Pilot was an experimental project to end long-term homelessness. It ran from 2001 to 2007 and used a collaborative approach to engage people and reduce their exposure to harm.  Funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, an independent evaluation of the Pilot revealed the impact of the supportive housing model on the community: instead of living in streets, shelter, jails, and detox, people were able to obtain and keep their own places. Expenses shifted from overcrowded crisis systems to investments in housing, services, and preventive medical care, ie prescriptions and doctor visits.

The Pilot was such a success that the Governor and Legislature expanded the model to five regional collaboratives across the state, increasing Hearth Connection's project area from two counties to twenty-six. Hearth Connection and its partners began enrolling participants in the Northeastern, Metro, and Southern Regional Projects in 2006.

Three years later, the expansion continued. Hearth Connection's work in Southern Minnesota grew to include six more counties, focusing on people with long histories of homelessness, chemical dependency, and other barriers to housing. Additionally, Hearth Connection developed new partnerships to study how supportive housing helps specific groups, like school-age children, and people with chronic medical conditions. In 2009, Hearth Connection began its first Hospital to Home project for people experiencing chronic medical conditions and long-term homelessness; by 2012, Hearth Connection launched a new supportive housing initiative in partnership with a health plan.