What qualifies someone to deserve a home? Should they be healthy? Mentally stable? Free from addiction? In the past, these were qualities that determined if someone was eligible for subsidized housing, and this exclusionary method left a lot of people without homes.
In recent years, research has shown that a different approach called Housing First is the most effective way to end homelessness. A report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness describes Housing First “as the foundation for life improvement” by doing exactly what is suggested by this straightforward moniker – provide housing first, and then help people address the issues that led to their homelessness. This model is so effective that it is now considered a best practice by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At MCCH, we believe that housing is a basic human right, not something that is earned. Housing First guides our work to ensure the best possible outcomes for the clients we serve. Practicing Housing First means we provide people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible – and then help them address the issues that led to their homelessness and provide ongoing support to ensure they never become homeless again.
But why does this practice work? Check out these three key benefits of Housing First:
- It provides basic needs. Think of a moment when you were at work or in class and you were hungry. Your stomach rumbles, you start to feel a bit sick, and you can’t focus at all on the task in front of you. This absence of basic needs is one reason that those experiencing homelessness struggle with exiting their situation on their own. Our clients have told us that when they are living outside, their waking hours are exclusively devoted to finding food, shelter, and basic hygiene. They are literally unable to focus on anything else, so when we are able to provide them with a home of their own and supportive services, they can focus on their health and career goals.
- There are few preconditions. For many programs, they require their clients to be drug-free or “clean” for a certain amount of time before they can move into housing. We recognize that for many, experiencing homelessness is a propellant in a client’s substance use disorder. Refusing to house these vulnerable people isn’t going to help them. Housing First provides long-term rental assistance and supportive services so that our clients can get the treatment they need.
- People are less likely to experience homelessness again. People who are helped using a Housing First model find housing faster and are more likely to remain stably housed. At MCCH, 98% of the families we serve remain stably housed. Housing First doesn’t just move people into homes, it helps them stay there for the rest of their lives. And if that’s not enough to sway your opinion, the Housing First approach is financially beneficial to taxpayers, so we all benefit from organizations who follow this practice.
Find your local homeless service organization and see if they use the Housing First model. If they don’t, then advocate for this change by sharing this Housing First checklist via email or social media. When someone has all the facts about Housing First, it’s hard to deny it as one of the key solutions in ending homelessness!