Housing First is a proven approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent housing with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers. It is based on overwhelming evidence that all people experiencing homelessness can achieve stability in permanent housing if provided with the appropriate levels of services. Study after study has shown that Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, reduces the use of crisis services and institutions, and improves people's health and social outcomes.
Housing First is an approach that can be adopted by housing programs, organizations, and across the housing crisis response system. The approach applies in both short-term interventions, like rapid re-housing, and long-term interventions, like supportive housing. For crisis services like emergency shelter and outreach, the Housing First approach means referring and helping people to obtain permanent housing.
A community-wide Housing First approach has the following elements:
- Emergency shelter, street outreach providers, and other parts of the crisis response system are aligned with Housing First and recognize that their role encompasses housing advocacy and rapid connection to permanent housing. Staff in crisis response system services believe that all people experiencing homelessness are housing ready.
- Strong and direct referral linkages and relationships exist between crisis response system (emergency shelters, street outreach, etc.) and rapid rehousing and supportive housing. Crisis response providers are aware and trained in how to assist people experiencing homelessness to apply for and obtain permanent housing.
- The community has a unified, streamlined, and user-friendly community-wide process for applying for rapid re-housing, supportive housing, and/or other housing interventions.
- The community has a coordinated assessment system for matching people experiencing homelessness to the most appropriate housing and services.
- The community has a data-driven approach to prioritizing highest-need cases for housing assistance, whether through an analysis of lengths of stay in Homeless Management Information Systems, vulnerability indices, or data on utilization of crisis services.
- Policymakers, funders, and providers collaboratively conduct planning and align resources to ensure that a range of affordable and supportive housing options and models are available to maximize housing choice among people experiencing homelessness.
- Policies and regulations related to supportive housing, social and health services, benefit and entitlement programs, and other essential services do not inhibit the implementation of the Housing First approach. For instance, eligibility and screening policies for benefit and entitlement programs or housing do not require the completion of treatment or achievement of sobriety as a prerequisite.
- Every effort is made to offer a tenant a transfer from one housing situation to another, if a tenancy is in jeopardy. Whenever possible, eviction back into homelessness is avoided.