Homelessness is first and foremost a housing problem. Lex End Homelessness (LEH) believes that housing is the solution to ending and preventing homelessness. To achieve this, LEH and its Continuum of Care partners take a “Housing First” approach–which is proven to be effective, comprehensive and sustainable.
What is Housing First?
Previous homelessness service models required those without housing to address other factors, such as addiction, or unemployment, prior to being housed. However, advocates of the Housing First model understand that housing is a human right– being housed is the necessary platform to improve overall quality of life. In the U.S., Housing First models started in Los Angeles in 1988 to address the needs of families with children experiencing homelessness. Since then, Housing First has become an integral part to lowering the rate of chronic homelessness and increasing the number of people who remain housed.
A Housing First approach begins “by housing people directly from the streets, without precondition.” Once an individual is housed, providers then “address their underlying issues around mental health, addiction, medical care, income, and education to help integrate and welcome them back into our community” (Pathways Housing First).
Importantly, Housing First prioritizes those most in need of housing and/or in crisis. The LEH Continuum of Care’s Housing First model integrates other core beliefs in their approach:
The Core beliefs of the Continuum of Care’s Housing First model
•No housing readiness requirements: We believe that everyone is “housing ready.”
•Self determination and client choice: We believe that everyone has the right to self-determination and to be treated with dignity and respect.
•Recovery orientation: We believe that being housed allows people to have the stability they need to address other compounding issues.
•Individualized and client driven supports: We believe that every person uniquely experiences homelessness; therefore, the approach to supporting someone in their journey to housing should be individualized.
•Social and community oriented: We believe that the unhoused are part of our community and lack of housing is a community issue; therefore, solutions should be community driven and systemic.
Housing First is a multilevel approach to providing housing best suited to an individuuals’ circumstance.
As part of the Housing First model, rapid re-housing interventions connect people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible through a personalized assistance package that may include time-limited financial aid and targeted supportive services. An emphasis on rapid re-housing reduces the amount of time an individual or family experiences homelessness.
Rapid re-housing program recipients tend to experience homelessness due to an episodic financial or medical crisis that resulted in the loss of housing. In Fayette County, many rapid re-housing program recipients have income at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). Most program recipients require short-term assistance so the individual or family can remain in permanent, stable housing.
Permanent Supportive Housing
Permanent supportive housing (PSH) combines long-term financial assistance with long-term supportive services.
Typically, PSH assistance programs are not time-limited, and tenants may live in the home if they meet the basic obligations of residency in the supportive housing unit. In line with a Housing First approach, participating in supportive services is not a condition of residency, but is encouraged through motivational interviewing and harm reduction practices. .
PSH models are effective for people experiencing chronic homelessness, who are at higher risk for infectious disease, HIV, traumatic injuries, drug overdoses, chronic alcoholism, violence and death or injury due to exposure to extreme heat and cold. Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 30% since 2007.
Data to Support Housing First
Housing First is endorsed by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness as an effective approach for government and service agencies to use in their work to end chronic homelessness. Because Housing First involves coordinating supportive services alongside addressing needs housing, other government agencies that adopt Housing First stance in their policies include:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Department of Economic Development
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Department of Labor
Moreover, the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] requires communities requesting HUD assistance grants via the Continuum of Care Program to adopt a Housing First approach; LEH supports this policy because HOUSING FIRST WORKS. Studies show that:
- Getting housed is the first and most important step to ending homelessess. Between 75 percent and 91 percent of households remain housed a year after being rapidly re-housed.
- Housing first is also more cost effective than not housing, or relying on emergency shelters: A Housing First program could cost up to $23,000 less per consumer per year than a shelter program.
- Preventing homelessness, as opposed to managing homelessness, is less draining on community resources: One study found an average cost savings on emergency services of $31,545 per person housed in a Housing First program over the course of two years.
Help Support Housing First
You can help to make Housing First a reality for everyone in the Fayette County community. Donate now to support Housing First programs at: http://lexendhomelessness.com/donate
To learn more data that demonstrates the success our providers have when they adopt Housing First, access our data dashboard: http://lexendhomelessness.com/data-dashboard.