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The Housing First Approach

The Housing First Approach

Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. This approach is based on the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before addressing anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues.

Though support services are offered, Housing First does not require people experiencing homelessness to address all of their problems including behavioral health problems or to graduate through a series of services programs before they can access housing. The Housing First approach views housing as the foundation for life improvement and enables access to permanent housing without prerequisites or conditions beyond those of a typical renter.

The Housing First approach is rooted in these basic principles

  • Homelessness is first and foremost a housing problem and should be treated as such ·
  • Housing is a right to which all are entitled 
  • Issues that may have contributed to a household’s homelessness can best be addressed once they are housed
  • People who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness should be returned to or stabilized in permanent housing as quickly as possible without  preconditions of treatment acceptance or compliance for issues such as mental health and substance use 
  • The service provider working with the individual should connect the client to robust resources necessary to sustain that housing, and participation is achieved through assertive engagement, not coercion  

Housing First aims to solve the biggest issue, which is not having a home, and then provide services to tackle the other issues. This new approach to homelessness became popular in the 1990s. Baltimore first tried it in 2005 believing that you don’t need to fix the problems that caused homelessness before placing someone in a home. This is contrary to the longstanding belief that a person had to prove they were sober and enter into programs before being offered housing. 

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Studies have shown that:

Rapid re-housing helps people exit homelessness quickly

A variety of studies have shown that between 75 percent and 91 percent of households remain housed a year after being rapidly re-housed.

Clients using supportive services are more likely to participate in job training programs, attend school, discontinue substance use, have fewer instances of domestic violence, and spend fewer days hospitalized than those not participating.

Finally, permanent supportive housing has been found to be cost-efficient. Providing access to housing generally results in cost savings for communities because housed people are less likely to use emergency services, including hospitals, jails, and emergency shelter, than those who are experiencing homelessness. 

Housing First is an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Then, it provides supportive services and connections to the community-based support people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.