Housing first is the gold standard in homelessness intervention. But why? Sharon McDonald explains why anything less than housing first is a disservice to homeless individuals and to the cause of ending homelessness.

Housing First-informed interventions such as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) demonstrate again and again that when people have help paying for housing, and when they receive services tailored to their individual needs, they will escape homelessness and they will stay housed.  Not only are Housing First interventions effective in ending homelessness, they are typically cheaper than allowing people to remain homeless and reliant on public shelters and other services.

Practitioners with long histories of serving people experiencing long-term homeless adults know that withholding housing help until people “get better” can result in people spending years on the streets as their health declines. People with severe mental illnesses cycle frequently between jails, hospitals, shelters and streets without ever achieving a stable home. Those that have seen this heartbreaking cycle, unfortunately still too common given inadequate resources, understand this fundamental truth: withholding housing assistance doesn’t help people, it hurts them.

Instead of requiring people to stabilize before receiving housing, Housing First interventions focus on helping people achieve stability in housing first.  This is often a critical precursor to other improvements in their lives.  People with the foundation of a home are better positioned to take advantage of supportive services: they have the stability in which to engage in job search. They have the platform they need to provide care and continuity for their young children. They have the safety housing affords that allow those who want to address traumatic experiences with a skilled practitioner to do so at a pace that is unthreatening and makes sense to them. They have a safe place to store medication and address their health and mental health needs. The absence of housing help makes attaining personal goals that much harder to attain.

Read the full article about housing first by Sharon McDonald at National Alliance to End Homelessness.