Housing First: An Approach that Works
The Housing First approach addresses the most basic need - housing.
What is Housing First?
The Housing First approach aims to end homelessness by providing individuals and families with permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible. Once individuals are safely housed, they are then offered (but not required to use) social services such as workforce training, health care, or case management. The Housing First approach is guided by the belief that housing is one of the most basic human needs and without it, people are unable to address other less pressing concerns.
How Does Housing First Work?
Housing First programs use two primary models to ensure individuals and families receive housing. The first model is rapid re-housing, which provides short-term rental assistance and services for a wide variety of individuals and families. The goal of rapid re-housing is to get people housed quickly and provide support services that increase self-sufficiency and ensure long-term housing stability.
The second model used in Housing First programs is permanent supportive housing (PSH). PSH is used for individuals and families who have mental or physical health concerns and who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness (also called “chronic homelessness”). Through the PSH model, individuals receive long-term rental assistance and comprehensive support services that aim to increase independence and keep people housed.
How Effective is Housing First?
Housing First is an effective approach to ending homelessness and provides many benefits for individuals and communities. People who are housed through a Housing First approach stay housed for longer than their peers who are enrolled in programs that require services before housing. This is especially true for veterans and individuals living with severe mental illness. The Housing First approach also increases the likelihood that individuals will reestablish relationships with friends and family and improves physical and mental health and quality of life. Individuals who use support services through a Housing First program are also more likely to participate in job training programs, return to school, and abstain from drug and alcohol use.
Communities that use a Housing First approach also experience many benefits. Housing First programs have produced significant cost savings by reducing the use of emergency departments, homeless shelters, police assistance, and food programs. Communities throughout the United States have experienced cost savings up to $50,000 per person per year by implementing Housing First programs.