WHAT IS “HOUSING FIRST”?

Sierra Roots has committed to the “HOUSING FIRST” approach to end homelessness in our community. We can offer food, clothes, and help in a number of other ways, but until we can get permanent housing for our homeless people here, we can't really help them get out of homelessness. The micro-house Village is our answer to providing permanent, supportive housing for these folks.

NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS SOLUTIONS BRIEF – NOVEMBER 27, 2006“HOUSING FIRST” is an approach that centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly, and then providing services as needed. What a differentiates a HOUSING FIRST approach from other strategies is that there is an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve. HOUSING FIRST programs share critical elements:

  •  There is a focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain rental housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited;
  • A variety of services are delivered primarily following a housing placement to promote housing stability and individual well-being;
  •  Such services are time-limited or long-term depending upon individual need; Housing is not contingent on compliance with services – instead, participant must comply with a standard lease agreement and are provided with the services that are necessary to help them do so successfully.

A HOUSING FIRST approach rests on the belief that helping people access and sustain permanent, affordable housing should be the central goal of our work with people experiencing homelessness. By providing housing assistance, case management and supportive services responsive to individual or family needs ( time-limited or long-term) after an individual or family is housed, communities can significantly reduce the time people experience homelessness and prevent further episodes of homelessness. A central tenet of the HOUSING FIRST approach is that social services to enhance individual and family well-being can be more effective when people are in their own home. While there are a variety of program models, all typically include a separate and private home or apartment for each person that is clean, close to services and has easy access.

HOUSING FIRST, which is distinct and separate from “rapid rehousing” is a relatively recent innovation in human service programs and social policy regarding treatment of homeless individuals and is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progressions. Rather than moving a homeless individual through different “levels” of housing, whereby each level moves them closer to “independent housing” (for example: from the streets to a public shelter, and from a public shelter to a transitional housing program, and from there to their own apartment in the community).

HOUSING FIRST moves the homeless individual or household immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their own apartments. HOUSING FIRST approaches are based on the concept that a homeless individual or household's first and primary need is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues that may affect the household can and should be addressed once housing is obtained. In contrast, many other programs operate from a model of “housing readiness” - that is, that an individual or household must address other issues that may have led to the episode of homelessness prior to entering housing.