The adoption of Housing First isn’t based on an ideological debate between Housing First and housing readiness; it’s based on overwhelming evidence that Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness, and significantly reduces the use of crisis services and institutions.
Simply put, communities that implement Housing First across their systems make the most progress on homelessness. New Orleans has reduced overall homelessness by 83 percent. Phoenix made a huge shift towards the adoption of Housing First, resulting in a 47 percent decrease in chronic homelessness, ending chronic homelessness among Veterans. And Houston has driven down homelessness by nearly 40 percent. These are just to name a few. When will NJ adopt housing first so we can ensure that all of our neighbors have a place to call home?
Housing First is not a “program.” It is a whole-system orientation and response. When we think of Housing First as a program, it creates the illusion that Housing First is just one among many choices for responding to homelessness. Housing First is a whole-system orientation, and in some cases, a whole-system re-orientation. To borrow a phrase, it is about “changing the DNA” of how a community responds to homelessness.
Housing First is a recognition that everyone can achieve stability in (real) housing. Some people simply need services to help them do so. The problem goes back to thinking about Housing First as a program model. When we instead think of Housing First as an approach and a whole system orientation, it allows us to get away from “one-size-fits-all” solutions, and focus on matching the right level of housing assistance and services to people’s needs and strengths.
Housing First is about health, recovery, and well-being. Housing itself is the foundation and platform for achieving these goals. The Housing First approach emphasizes services that focus on housing stability, then using that housing as a platform for connecting people to the types of services and care that they seek and want. It’s based on the basic premise that if people have a stable home, they are in a better position to achieve other goals, including health, recovery and well-being than when they are homeless.
Housing First is about changing mainstream systems, Housing First is, and always has been, about changing mainstream systems. In the beginning, Housing First was about changing the mental health system’s paradigm to recognize that housing is foundational to mental health recovery, and housing is just as foundational to addiction recovery and psychical well-being as it is to mental health.
To read more about the four clarifications click here.