Housing First Approach for Chronically Homeless Persons

A Housing First approach should be adopted to address the chronically homeless. These individuals often suffer from mental health or addiction and their inability to recover is a large reason why they are homeless. A Housing First approach gives them a stable place to live and offers services such as counselling, therapy and healthcare – addressing one’s housing needs and their health, social, recreational, educational and occupational goals.

Key components of a Housing First plan include the following:

No treatment preconditions

Unlike traditional approaches to homelessness requiring sobriety or other conditions before housing is offered, homeless persons can participate immediately. Sobriety or abstinence from alcohol or drugs are not required, and participation in rehabilitation programs is voluntary.

Independent housing

Homeless persons may receive rent supplements and are usually housed in independent, private market rental units - although they can request to be housed in social or congregate housing.

Housing is separate from support services

Support services to homeless persons are not tied to their housing location. If they change their residence, the services continue.

Higher intensity support for homeless persons with greater needs

Individuals with higher needs are supported by treatment teams of psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, case managers, etc.

Individuals with less intensive needs have a case manager who can refer them to external service providers.

Commitment to choice

Participants are given as much choice as possible on the location and type of housing (subject to funding, market conditions and other constraints). This encourages participants to sustain themselves and maintain their housing.

Commitment to participants

If participants lose their housing, there is a commitment to rehouse them. This may occur several times and efforts are made to not abandon any participant.

Studies consistently show that Housing First is an effective way to help chronically homeless people. See Appendix A for a summary of case studies.