What Housing First Really Means

NJ DCA’s Housing First Initiative Gives Homeless People a Place to Live First

Housing First is an evidence based best practice designed to end homelessness and support recovery by housing individuals as quickly as possible and then wrapping services around them as needed.  

This Housing First housing model proves effective in housing a wide variety of homeless population subsets including chronically homeless households and families and the general homeless population. 

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) invests significantly in Housing First as a solution to chronic homelessness in New Jersey. DCA’s Housing First program is one of the first statewide initiatives in the nation that gives homeless people a place to live before providing them needed medical care and counseling.

The goal of this innovative program is to help keep people off the streets, out of emergency rooms and jails, and on their way to becoming productive and accepted members of the community. First launched as a pilot in Camden, NJ, Housing First tackles chronic homelessness while reducing government and hospital costs.

A recent blog post by the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Ben Cattell writes about “What Housing First Really Means.”

The Housing First model operates under the assumption that housing is the solution to the problem of homelessness.   Within this model, housing is not contingent upon participation in services and services provided are designed to promote housing stability. 

Cattell writes,

“Housing First is a philosophy that values flexibility, individualized supports, client choice, and autonomy. It never has been housing only, and it never should be.

Supportive services are part of the Housing First model. That might include formal support services, like a doctor, therapist, or social worker. It might involve informal supports, like connecting with family, friends, or faith groups.”

In his blog post, Cattlell quotes a plenary speech at the 2019 Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults National Conference in San Diego, given by Matthew Doherty, Executive Director for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH):

“We have the opportunity to not waste precious time on endless debates regarding whether Housing First works for ‘this population’ or ‘in this community’ and to resist bogus arguments that a focus on Housing First imposes a one-size-fits-all solution on people or programs. We can speak the real truth that Housing First approaches are the opposite of one-size-fits-all and help ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind.”

Click here to read more about Housing First in New Jersey.

Click here for a “What Housing First Really Means” blog post from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.