Proven Solutions

What is Housing First?

Housing First is an approach that centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly and then providing services, as needed. What 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:

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.

For further information - "What is Housing First?" National Alliance to End Homelessness. November 9, 2006.

How successful is Housing First?

As an example, Pathways to Housing, a New York not-for-profit organization, has been committed since 1992 to treating homelessness by providing people with housing first, and then providing intensive and individualized programs that seek out and actively work with clients difficulties as long as they need, in order to address their emotional, psychiatric, medical, and human needs, on a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. In its brief history, Pathways-unique in its providing housing first, has demonstrated a remarkable 85% retention rate.

"About Us." Pathways to Housing Inc. March 13, 2009

How cost-effective is Housing First?

Housing First is the most cost-effective way to treat homelessness. Pathways to Housing estimated that in New York, a homeless individual costs taxpayers $40,000 per year for shelters, jail time, and emergency room visits. The Pathways to Housing program costs only $22,000 and gives people the services they need to end chronic homelessness and get on the path to secure independent living.

"How To End Homelessness? Provide Homes. Successful Program Gives People Housing First, Social Services Second." CBS Evening News. Nov. 23, 2007.

What is supportive housing?

Supportive housing is a housing approach focused on providing quality affordable housing to lower income individuals and families struggling with or at risk for homelessness. It is a successful, cost-effective combination of affordable housing with services that helps people live more stable, productive lives. Supportive housing works well for people who face the most complex challenges-individuals and families who are not only homeless, but who also have very low incomes and serious, persistent issues that may include substance use, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS.