Understanding Housing First principles and adopting them as a core element of a community initiative are essential if we are serious about reducing homelessness and creating a system that ends it for most people within 30 days.
The Housing First philosophy does not exclude the different aspects that a functioning system must contain. For example, shelters are needed for an immediate safe place with low barriers while people work quickly on re-housing. Transitional housing can serve as options for certain populations that do not want to enter into their own housing unit just yet and choose to receive more intense services before they want to access permanent housing.
A Housing First approach does not screen out people because they are too hard to work with (often the term “not housing ready” is used). Housing First shifts the focus from treatment first to help people access housing quickly.
But (!) Housing First is not housing only. We need to ensure that people receive the services they need so they can overcome the underlying causes that led to their loss of housing in the first place.
Is it easy in an economy where affordable, low-income housing is scarce to find enough housing for people with several barriers to housing? No. But that requires another conversation on prioritization and how we utilize, as a community, our limited resources.