Strategies to End Homelessness:

What is “Housing First” - An Overview

Housing First is a framework, not a particular program. In this framework, people struggling with chronic homelessness are provided with affordable housing and typically with case management. Supportive services to address mental health or substance abuse issues are made readily available but they are not mandatory; the only requirement is that participants obey standard lease provisions. Supportive services are highly client-driven and emphasize problem-solving and harm reduction over therapeutic goals. This evidence-based model has been proven to reduce overall costs to the community by decreasing the use of resources such as shelters, jails, ambulance and emergency room services, while successfully providing stability to people who are the most difficult to house.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness writes:

Housing First is a proven method of ending all types of homelessness and is the most effective approach to ending chronic homelessness. Housing First offers individuals and families experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent affordable or supportive housing. Without clinical prerequisites like completion of a course of treatment or evidence of sobriety and with a low-threshold for entry, Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness, and significant reductions in the use of crisis service and institutions.1 Due its high degree of success, Housing First is identified as a core strategy for ending homelessness in Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness and has become widely adopted by national and community-based organizations as a best practice for solving homelessness.

The Housing First Checklist: A Practical Tool for Assessing Housing First in Practice. Available at www.usich.gov

Utah reports that it has reduced its chronically homeless population from 1,932 to 539 since 2005, a decrease of 72% using the Housing First framework.(The Salt Lake Tribune;, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58501056-78/housing-hardy-homeless-utah.html.csp) Many other cities, including Phoenix, Philadelphia, and New Orleans also report high success in reducing the number of chronically homeless people through a housing first approach.

Click here to read more about Housing First - Principles to Practice.
Click here to read more about Housing First principles in action.