What’s the big deal with Housing First?
The traditional approach to homelessness has been almost to treat it like a disease—treat the patient first, in an environment reserved for other afflicted people, and then house them after they’re “cured.” Some programs even require homeless individuals to go through unnecessary “education,” such as sobriety courses for people who don’t abuse alcohol, in order to make them “ready” for housing.
Housing First is an evidence-based model that prioritizes the importance of stable housing. Even among the chronically homeless Housing First is effective at helping people overcome addiction, manage their disabilities and rebuild their lives. Ironically enough, it turns out its way easier to become “housing ready” when you’re already housed—nothing beats having a place to put your important documents, a place to relax and be safe, a warm place to sleep at night. Housing First is a big deal because it’s a new, more effective model going up against decades of “Housing Readiness”-based thinking.
Wait, so what is Housing First, exactly? Do you just give everybody free housing?
No, not “just”! Housing First programs help end homelessness by recognizing that the primary problem of homeless people isn’t a moral failing, bad habits or weakness—it’s lack of housing! This realistic, non-judgmental approach places people in stable housing and then addresses other issues more effectively. What’s more, did you know it’s actually cheaper to house chronically homeless people than it is to take care of them on the street? It’s true. While chronically homeless individuals can cost upwards of $60,000 a year in emergency room costs, jail stays and other unnecessary expenses, stable lives in permanent housing can cost less than half of that. It’s a compassionate solution to homelessness, but what’s more, it makes sense money-wise.
Plus, most Housing First programs emphasize case management services, in addition to permanent housing. That means social workers and case managers are assigned to newly-housed clients. These advocates help guide formerly homeless men and women as they integrate into their new communities, providing help getting access to any necessary treatment, benefits, and employment opportunities.
- Santa Clara County supervisors to consider $1.35 million in vouchers to house 100 chronically homeless (mercurynews.com)
- ‘Housing first’ approach effective in tackling chronic homelessness ()