Housing First is a homeless assistance approach or framework that champions permanent housing as a solution for those who are homeless. Access to programs is not contingent on sobriety, minimum income requirements, lack of a criminal record, completion of treatment, participation in services, or other unnecessary conditions. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prioritizes Housing First proposals in its annual funding to local regions.
Deviating from past practice of “transitioning” those without homes through a temporary house or apartment in which individuals and families must prove or demonstrate their readiness to live in a permanent home, Housing First is built upon the belief that everyone needs a permanent place to live before successfully addressing mental health, illegal drug use, employment and other issues. The Housing First model has two components:
- Rapid Re-Housing for individuals who are temporarily homeless and need little support to obtain employment or maintain housing. The tenets of rapid re-housing are: 1) Find housing quickly 2) Help pay and 3) Help stay. In this current year, Yolo County Center for Families receives $265,000 and continues to provide rapid re-housing for families. The majority targets those who have lost their housing. A small portion, $25,000 can be used for eviction prevention.
- Permanent Supported Housing for those who are chronically homeless and need supportive services such as case management, substance abuse or mental health counseling, and assistance in locating and maintaining employment.
On September 29, 2016, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1380 into law making California a Housing First state that requires all state programs targeted to end homelessness to incorporate Housing First into its core principles. The Woodland City Council also adopted Housing First as its approach to homelessness.
Although the word “homeless” is used to describe those who are unhoused, research indicates that differences exist in characteristics and effective interventions among individuals who find themselves without shelter. If temporarily or situationally homeless due to a recession or other life events, the preferred intervention is rapid re-housing. Transitional housing is no longer seen as the preferred paradigm for most although it is still viewed as effective for those recovering from domestic violence. Those who are chronically homeless generally suffer from severe disabilities and respond best to permanent supportive housing.