Homeless To Housing: Housing First. And Second? There’s A Big Time Second!

a pair of clasped hands in foreground. Out of focus in background, a listener
Counseling photo by Alan Cleaver is licensed under CC BY 2.0

‘Housing First’ is a world-respected program designed to rescue individuals from homelessness. It has been very successful. Indeed, its success has been communicated to city councils everywhere to the point that such governing bodies, without necessarily understanding the full scope of the program, often insist that funding for homelessness be earmarked for “Housing First”.

“Housing First’s” name strongly reflects the necessary step to begin the program. Put the homeless person into housing.

Right. Done and dusted. Success. End of Story?

Far from it. Official dismay and even resentment that can occur when people who are homeless move to housing. Without followup support, there’s every likelihood they won’t stay. Consider this pandemic-triggered housing of homeless in Western Australia: Australians Resist COVID-19 Path To Eliminate Homelessness

It might be argued that the most important part of Housing First is NOT housing first. That should be the easy step on the road to rescuing an individual from homelessness. (Not in fact so easy, unfortunately, as so many regions suffer a critical lack of truly affordable housing.)

The essential meat of Housing First is delivered after a homeless individual obtains the physical and mental security of shelter that is pemanent and affordable.1

How important, how expensive, how complex are the supports that must be part of a “Housing First” program after a person is placed in housing?

For an insight into the challenge for health workers providing follow-up support to people newly moved from the street to housing, read about a modest new mental health support program starting up in northwest Arkansas. The support and housing teams are ready: they know who needs housing by name and the kinds of services that will help them.2 Read more in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Program to combine housing and mental health services for the city’s most vulnerable


  1. Here’s a recent post, which discusses the relative effectiveness of Housing First and Treatment First: Health Services In US Supported To Use Housing First Treatment
  2. Let’s hope there is sufficient funding and it doesn’t run out when it’s most needed.