What is Housing First?

Back to Updates


Join Our Mailing List

post img

Q: What is Housing First anyways?
A: Housing First is the most effective approach to ending homelessness. Housing First is a bipartisan, evidence-based strategy that provides people experiencing homelessness with stable, affordable housing quickly and without prerequisites. 
Housing First is a flexible approach that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals, including youth and older adults, people experiencing chronic homelessness, individuals with substance use disorders, and people with mental health conditions. In contrast, Treatment First programs are one-size-fits-all programs that create high barriers to housing by requiring that people achieve health or employment goals as a condition of receiving housing -- even though housing would provide the stability they need to pursue those and other goals.

Q: How long has Housing First been around? What model did it replace?
A: Housing First was developed in New York City in the 1990s by Dr. Sam Tsemberis and the nonprofit Pathways to Housing. The model was developed in reaction to costly and slow “treatment first” or “stairstep” programs. This earlier model set housing as the end goal instead of the foundation in which to reach their personal goals. In these other programs, a person experiencing homelessness had to graduate from a series of transitional housing programs, and/or achieve sobriety, to prove themself “housing ready” before they would be housed. Unfortunately, with such high barriers to housing, this older, more costly model left individuals to languish in shelters without a clear pathway to exit homelessness.
Housing First dismissed this unethical model, asserting housing as a basic human right and not something that needed to be "earned." Respecting people innate human rights is actually more effective in helping them heal. Studies have shown that Housing First programs are twice as effective at ending homelessness, compared to treatment first programs. 


Q: Does Housing First include services?
A: Yes! It should.  Housing First is not “housing only.” It includes an array of voluntary supportive services – such as case management, substance use services, peer support services, and supported employment services, among others – that help individuals live stably in the community. Housing First recognizes that people with mental health challenges or substance use disorders often need stable housing before they can engage effectively in other services. Once stably housed, individuals are better able to take advantage of other services and supports, which can help them maintain housing stability, attain employment, and achieve physical and mental overall health. Without stable housing, achieving these goals can be much more difficult. 

Q: Why does a Health Care for the Homeless organization have a Housing Program?
A: Housing is an essential Health Care service. At AHCH, we understand that homelessness is a harmful and traumatic experience that several impacts people's health and can actually make people sicker. In line with the Housing First model, in order to help people reach their optimal health outcomes and reduce health care inequities, we must first address the systemic determinants that impacted their health in the first place. For our client population, the largest barrier to health is housing. Therefore, we invested in our housing navigation and permanent supportive housing programs to help support our clients in exiting the cycle of homelessness and reaching their health and wellness goals. 

Instagram 3

References and Resources: 
Talking Points on Housing First (nlihc.org)
Research on Housing First (nlihc.org)

Homelessness is unacceptable and solvable.
However, even with nearly 40 years of expertise serving this community, we know we can’t do it alone.

Stand with us, Donate Today.


Share on Social Media

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *