By Sue Laliberte | Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that very simply provides housing first, services later.
In other words, give someone a home without conditions other than the regular terms of a rental lease. Then, once the person has a home to call their own, offer support to help solve problems that led to homelessness in the first place, and to avoid a recurrence.
Some people like Housing First for moral reasons, others for practical reasons. Others like it because it saves taxpayer dollars. In Utah, Housing First has reduced chronic homelessness statewide by 91 percent over the past couple of years.
This approach gives people a choice in both housing selection and in service participation. Housing First programs share important elements:
- A focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain permanent housing as quickly as possible
- A wide array of services delivered in a manner that promotes housing stability and individual well-being on an as-needed, voluntary basis
- A standard lease agreement to housing – without other contingencies such as therapy, sobriety
While all Housing First programs share these elements, program models vary depending on the population they are serving. What is meaningful and helpful to youth may be different than what works for families, or those with mental illness and chemical dependency, or older adults. Long-term homeless individuals may require longer support and assistance.
It is important to note, however, that the majority of individuals and families who become homelessness do so after a housing or personal crisis. For these households, Housing First provides them with short-term assistance to finding permanent housing quickly and without conditions.
This post is part of our series, Deconstructing Housing - our effort to explain some common affordable housing terms and concepts. Previous posts: