Housing First is a term that you may hear a lot when talking about those experiencing homelessness in the STL Region. Housing First is an approach to providing services that is new to many STL agencies, but, it is an approach that is well-grounded in research and considered to be a best practice by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
So, what is Housing First?
Housing First is an approach to addressing homelessness that is grounded in the belief that, above all else, homelessness is a crisis best responded to by providing housing as quickly as possible to those in need. Prior to Housing First Philosophy taking hold, many social services required that those experiencing homelessness meet certain criteria prior to being housed. For example, clients would need to become employed, complete substance abuse treatment, engage in financial education courses or otherwise demonstrate being “housing ready” prior to being offered housing assistance.
Housing First proposes that all individuals are “housing ready” and that individuals are best able to work on goals, be it working towards sobriety or obtaining sustainable income, only after they are safely housed. This approach goes hand-in-hand with the belief that people need to have certain basic needs fulfilled before being able to focus on making progress elsewhere in their lives. By meeting the basic need of having a safe place to stay individuals are empowered to make other positive changes. Under Housing First, individuals are no longer denied entry into housing due to their unemployment or continued substance use, rather, they are allowed entry and then provided the supports needed to overcome their struggles.
What is a “best practice”?
Best practice refers to a technique that is generally accepted as the most effective approach to addressing a problem, this acceptance is based on supportive research. Adherence to a Housing First philosophy is backed up by research indicating improved outcomes for Housing First programs (i.e.-higher rates of housing retention, higher rates of utilizing supportive services) and as such, it is recognized as a best practice. More in-depth information on Housing First and its supportive research is available via HUD and also the National Alliance to End Homelessness.