Housing First to Prevent and End Homelessness
What is Housing First?
It is a relatively simple concept. We provide people who are homeless permanent housing first, along with supportive services, instead of placing them into shelters. This means housing becomes the first step in moving out of homelessness, not the last.
Currently, we are using shelters as long-term housing. This is expensive. It doesn’t solve the problem, and it doesn’t help families to become self sufficient. Instead, we should find permanent housing.
What are the benefits of Housing First?
There are two main benefits. The Housing first approach lets people who are homeless become self-sufficient more quickly. And, it can save tax dollars.
- Quicker road to self-sufficiency
When you’re homeless, your only focus is to find your next meal and a place to sleep. It’s hard to do anything else—like find a better paying job or get an education. Housing first gives working families and single individuals’ stability. This allows them to do the things that help them be self-sufficient more quickly. Research also shows that housing reduces drug and alcohol use for single adults who have been chronically homeless.
2. Cost savings for taxpayers
Taxpayers save because housing first reduces the amount of public services used. Overall, putting people who are homeless in permanent housing results in:
- 85% reduction in emergency detoxification services.
- 58% reduction in emergency room visits.
- 50% decrease in jail time.
- 50% increase in earned income.
Cities, counties and states using Housing First are saving money:
City of Denver saved $3.4 million over two years.
City of Seattle saved $3.2 million in one year.
State of Maine saved $944 per person per year.
Does housing first work?
Yes. It reduces the number of people who are homeless. Many other cities and counties prove this point. Here are just a few examples:
- 57% drop in family homelessness over four years in Westchester County (N.Y.)
- 79% drop in homelessness over 14 years in the City of Miami.
- 46% drop in family homelessness over four years in Columbus (Ohio.)
- 43% drop in family homelessness over two years in Hennepin County (Minn.)
- 28% drop in homelessness over three years in the City of San Francisco.
Where will people who are homeless be housed?
There is no single solution, but there are many options:
- Preserve affordable homes.
- Create tax incentives for developers to build affordable homes.
- Partner with nonprofits and faith communities to help working families pay for homes.
- Change land use, zoning and tax policies to create incentives for affordable homes.
It will take a public-private partnership to create homes within reach of working families.
How will we make sure that people will not end up homeless again?
A central tenet of this 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. Once in housing, people will receive services according to their needs. Receiving these services is voluntary.
Those at risk will receive support from community-based housing opportunity support teams to help prevent them from becoming homeless again. These teams will maintain contact with every person who is placed into housing, even if they are not receiving services, to make sure that everything is going smoothly for the resident and the neighborhood.
Members of these teams will have experience and extensive knowledge of the service system each represents. Each will work with his or her organization and with other team members to coordinate the services people need.