What is Housing First?
Housing First is a model of housing assistance that centers on first providing people experiencing homelessness with housing and then providing voluntary services as needed and desired. Housing First programs operate under the assumption that everyone is ready for housing.
Housing First emerged as an alternative to the linear approach in which people experiencing homelessness were required to first participate in and graduate from short-term residential and treatment programs before obtaining permanent housing. In the linear approach, permanent housing was offered only after a person experiencing homelessness could demonstrate that they were “ready” for housing. By contrast, Housing First is premised on the following principles:
- Homelessness is first and foremost a housing crisis and can be addressed through the provision of safe and affordable housing.
- All people experiencing homelessness, regardless of their housing history and duration of homelessness, can achieve housing stability in permanent housing. Some may need very little support for a brief period of time, while others may need more intensive and long-term supports.
- Everyone is “housing ready.” Sobriety, compliance in treatment, or even clean criminal histories are not necessary to succeed in housing. Rather, homelessness programs and housing providers must be “consumer ready.”
- Many people experience improvements in quality of life, in the areas of health, mental health, substance use, and employment, as a result of achieving housing.
- People experiencing homelessness have the right to self-determination and should be treated with dignity and respect.
- The exact configuration of housing and services depends upon the needs and preferences of the population.
All homeless projects in the Ohio BoSCoC must adopt a Housing First approach. Adoption of Housing First practices will be documented via program policies and procedures and any other relevant documents that evidence the incorporation of the practices into the design and operation of the project.
Low Barrier Systems
Low Barrier systems keep program entry requirements and pre-requisites to a minimum. For example, a Low Barrier program would eliminate sobriety and income requirements and other policies that make it difficult to enter and/or access a program. If used effectively with Housing First, systems can increase exits from homelessness to stable housing and lower lengths of time homeless.
USICH – Housing First Checklist: Tool for Assessing Housing First in Practice
NAEH – Organizational Change: Adopting a Housing First Approach
NEAH – Fact Sheet: Housing First
COHHIO – Technical Assistance Training Materials