What is Housing First? Housing First (H1) is an approach or method of dealing with chronic homelessness where the homeless individual is moved directly from the street or shelter into their own home. H1 is in direct contrast to a “housing readiness” model, which suggests that an individual or household must address the issues or barriers existing that may have led to their homelessness before being deemed “ready” or “worthy” to have their own permanent housing. Housing First is based on the concept that the first and primary need for a homeless individual is to obtain stable housing FIRST, and that other issues can and should be addressed once that housing is established.
- Housing is a basic human right, not a reward.
- Once an individual is “housed” improvement in the quality of life for that person can improve more quickly and be longer lasting.
- After “housing” Intensive Case Management (ICM) and Objective Based Follow-up from a Housing First service provider must occur.
- Services and housing is predicated on choice, not coercion.
- Services must be tailored to the individual needs of the participant and their preference.
- Continued tenancy and support is not based on adherence to rules, compliance, or treatment. However, the housing provider must be prepared to support the clients commitment to recovery.
- The most vulnerable, complex, and disabled are given priority for services and supports.
- Harm reduction is embraced as opposed to mandating abstinence with addictions.
- Tenants must have their own leases.
- The preference is for scattered site housing but project based housing can also be appropriate.
- Not ALL people with housing needs are Housing First eligible
Housing First in Lethbridge: In conjunction with the mandate of the Province of Alberta, and the Government of Canada, Lethbridge follows the Housing First approach in their efforts to end homelessness. Under the guidance of Social Housing In Action (SHIA), the City of Lethbridge, the Community Based Organization (CBO), manages the funding dollars received from both Government bodies by establishing contracts with community agencies to develop and run Housing First specific programs to house and support the homeless.
- From the Diversion program, someone in the community or the individuals themselves, all housing issues are referred to HomeBASE.
- Housing First eligibility is determined.
- If client is Housing First, Universal Intake and Assessment completed.
- Appropriate Housing First agency is determined.
- Warm transfer of client is made to appropriate agency.
- Client is “housed” and Intensive Case Management (ICM) Follow-up support begins.
- Housing First teams draw upon other Housing First supports and community partners for wrap-around supports.
- Client reaches “Graduation” and lives independently.
If a HomeBASE referral is deemed “not Housing First”:
- Individual will be informed of decision and reasons why.
- HomeBASE will provide referrals and warm transfers where possible to more appropriate agency.
- Client and whomever referred the client (if applicable) will receive a summary report of HomeBASE process
- Individuals or households in jeopardy of losing housing or being evicted will be referred to the Diversion program for assistance.
Housing First Graduate:
- Active in Housing First program for 1 year or more
- Housing maintained for 6 consecutive months
- SPDAT assessment scores have been reduced
- Follow-up worker and client agree support is no longer necessary