What is the True Meaning of Housing First?
By Intern Steven Rodriguez
The basic concept of Housing First is that permanent housing is the first step for people to get their lives back on track. “Nothing in any person’s history or present precludes them from being able to be housed.” (NAEH,1) Many other programs require certain rules be met for a homeless person to be ready to get housing, like attending a substance or alcohol abuse program. Housing First does not. This flexible program gives people experiencing homelessness choices as to their housing arrangement and what supports they need. If they choose, they can get help from a therapist or social worker, or even family, friends, or faith groups. Even though recovery is not required to get housing, recovery orientation is a key principle of Housing First. The focus is on the individual’s well-being and harm reduction, aiming to lower the risks associated with substance and alcohol dependence. Income support and rent supplements may also be provided to maintain housing. Social and community integration is also important as it gives the program participants opportunities for meaningful interactions and activities.
Bridges relies upon the Housing First method. Below, Ashley Hill Trotter, the Director of Strategic Partnerships, explains how Bridges and Housing First come together to meet our clients.
“Bridges believes in and advocates for a Housing First approach with all of our unsheltered clients, because we know that an individual cannot address their mental health or substance abuse issues without the security of a roof over their head. As such, Bridges Case Managers prioritize housing by ensuring that our clients have the vital documents that are required to apply for housing, by assisting clients with identifying housing opportunities and completing housing applications, and by accessing additional income sources that would provide funds for housing costs. During nightly outreach and engagement in the City of Newark, Bridges Outreach Specialists transport interested individuals to City-designated shelters, but that is never the final destination. In addition to providing transportation to shelter, the Bridges Outreach Specialists refer clients to Project Connect where they can begin working with our Case Managers who can place them on the path toward housing. If individuals are interested in addressing other issues that they may be facing or feel that precludes them from obtaining and sustaining housing, our Case Managers are able to implement a simultaneous approach by bringing other service providers to the table in case collaborations that holistically address the individual client, their challenges, and their housing situation.”
Housing First is a valuable program helping those facing homelessness. For more information, see this interesting, partially animated Youtube video by Gwen Haworth:
Homeless Hub.. “Housing First.” Housing First | The Homeless Hub
NAEH, National Alliance to End Homelessness. “What Housing First Really Means.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, 18 Mar. 2019