Pay for Success
in Pima County


Project Goal

The Pay for Success project in Pima County, Arizona is a locally-tailored program that seeks to stabilize and support individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, behavioral health issues and frequent engagements with law enforcement in Pima County. Additionally, the project seeks to reduce the burden on the criminal justice and emergency healthcare systems.

Project Background

With the implementation of the State of Arizona’s first-ever Pay-for-Success (PFS) program, Pima County continues to lead the way among Arizona jurisdictions in finding innovative means to address persistent social problems while responsibly using public resources. 

The PFS financing model relies on socially responsible, non-governmental investments to supply the financial capital necessary to support the costs of a project. Investors receive a full return on investments, once an independent evaluation determines the project has met its pre-determined, measurable outcomes within an established timeframe. 

Pima County will partner with The University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center to design the program, set distinct, predetermined goals and put this effort into action over the next four years. 

Project Structure

To accomplish its goals, the PFS program will incorporate evidence-based practices proven to help stop the “revolving door” experience of homeless individuals who have a history of incarceration and behavioral health needs, including "Housing First" permanent supportive housing (PSH), assertive community treatment (ACT), and other tailored strategies.


There is good reason for optimism about using a permanent supportive housing approach to homelessness. Similar undertakings have shown promising results in other locations, including current Pay for Success projects in Denver, Colorado and Santa Clara County, California. 

Facts at a Glance

  • As of 2016, 2,021 homeless families and individuals and 381 unsheltered individuals lived in Pima County. —Pima County Sullivan Jackson Employment Center 
  • 64 percent of people held in jails nationwide have at least one mental health issue. —Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006
  • Correctional health care spending rose in the majority of states from 2007 to 2011, with a median increase of 13 percent. —State Prison Health Care Spending: An Examination, Pew Charitable Trusts/MacArthur Foundation, 2014
  • Mental health care costs comprise significant portions of health care spending in correctional budgets, ranging from 5 to 43 percent of operating budgets in 1998. —The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System, Urban Institute, March 2015
  • More than 10 percent of individuals who enter prison or jail are homeless in the months before their incarceration. For individuals who also have mental illness, the rates are even higher, at about 20 percent. —Strategies for Addressing Housing Needs and Risks in Prisoner Re-entry, Council of State Governments 2005
  • Implementation of a permanent supportive housing program contributed to a 91% reduction in chronic homelessness around Salt Lake City, Utah between 2005 and 2015. —Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, State of Utah 2015
  • Prison and jail are among the most expensive settings to serve people who are homeless: one nine-city study calculated median daily costs for prison and jail at $59.43 and $70.00, respectively, compared with $30.48 for supportive housing. —Strategies for Addressing Housing Needs and Risks in Prisoner Re-entry, Council of State Governments, 2005

The Pima County Pay for Success Project Timeline

  • February 2014 – Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry announces plans to develop a PFS pilot program and hosted representatives from more than 80 community organizations, charities, and government agencies at the “Bringing Pay for Success to Pima County” conference focused on funding strategies for critical criminal justice and mental health services. 
  • November 2015 – the Pima County Board of Supervisors approves partnership with the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center to investigate the possibility of a PFS initiative to provide permanent supportive housing for Pima County’s homeless population. 
  • June 2016 – the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center, together with Pima County, was awarded a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch the Pima County PFS Program. 
  • Early 2017 – Pima County and the Sorenson Impact Center introduce the PFS program to potential stakeholders. Initial contact with implementing agencies begins. 
  • Fall 2017 – Completion of Feasibility Analysis, including identification of target population and anticipated scope of services. 
  • Early 2018 – Mid-2018 – Transaction Structuring phase, including design of program, selection of independent evaluator and evaluation methodology, project outcomes and investors determined. 
  • June 2018 (Expected) – Service delivery launch. 
  • Early 2022 (Expected) – PFS services evaluated and investors repaid. 

For more information, contact Caroline Ross.