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Housing First

Housing First has proved to be an effective approach to permanently house the hardest to serve homeless people—the “chronically homeless”—around the United States as well as families.  It is a program that houses people—sometimes with intense needs around substance abuse and/or serious mental illness—and provides them with services they need while housed, and maintains those supports if they move on to other permanent housing.

Whatever issues we have in our lives, they are made worse with lack of housing.  Stress levels are high with no housing, thus medical and emotional issues are compounded.  Social networks with friends and family are tougher to maintain with no housing, no phone, no place to be contacted or to meet.  Meeting with social workers or medical professionals, job coaches, you name it, is all supported by the stability that housing provides.  So for someone with any combination of these issues, having a home can be essential.

Some issues to consider
Sometime organizations create “transitional housing” housing and call it Housing First, but may not have the low threshold of entry in the program nor the intense service options that accompany the housing.  Another issue is that Housing First requires availability of affordable housing stock.  And lastly, the question remains, how do we bring the Housing First solution to scale in an economically sustainable way that truly meets the scope of the homeless problem in the U.S.?

This Housing First model was first developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis and staff at Pathways to Housing in 1992 in New York City for individuals and pioneered by Bryond Shelter in California for families.  Housing First models exist in numerous cities around the United States.

Housing First Resources Links

Moving Here Saved My Life: The Experience of Formerly Chronically Homeless Women and Men in Quincy’s Housing First Projects
By Tatjana Meschede, Ph.D. (Center for Social Policy, UMass Boston, 2006)

The Applicability of Housing First Models to Homeless Persons with Serious Mental Illness – Final Report
(Prepared for HUD by Walter R. McDonald & Associates & Abt Associates, 2007)

Home & Healthy for Good: A Statewide Housing First Program
Progress Report (MHSA, 2009)

Housing First for Families: Research to Support the Development of a Housing First for Families Training Curriculum
(Prepared for NAEH by LaFrance Associates, LLCNAEH, 2004

The National Alliance to End Homelessness Housing First Page

Housing First for Families: NAEH Case Study of Beyond Shelter, CA