Breaking the Cycle: How the Housing-First Model Transforms Lives
Last Updated: 26 Sep 2023
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Working to End Homelessness Through Understanding and Compassion
Homelessness is a crisis that affects millions of people worldwide. The sight of individuals sleeping on the streets is a stark reminder of the deep-rooted issues that exist in our society. As a service organization working to end homelessness in San Antonio (and beyond!) since 1969, we know that to address this crisis effectively, it’s essential to understand the different types of homelessness and recognize the importance of a Housing-First model.
What Are The 4 Types of Homelessness?
Homelessness is a vast and nuanced issue across our nation, and no two situations are alike. There are, however, four buckets that most cases fit into:
1. Transitional Homelessness
Transitional homelessness is the most common type of homelessness and is caused by a major life change or catastrophic event. People experiencing transitional homelessness often do not have a “safety net” of family support or financial cushioning. Job loss, injury or illness, divorce or domestic abuse, substance use disorder, and family crisis are the leading causes of transitional homelessness.
2. Episodic Homelessness
Episodic homelessness is defined as at least three periods of homelessness within a twelve-month period. People experiencing episodic tend to be younger, and their homelessness is often caused by challenges like illness, disability, or a substance use disorder.
3. Chronic Homelessness
The federal government defines chronic homelessness as continuous homelessness for over a year, or at least four periods of homelessness over the past three years. People experiencing chronic homelessness often learn how to “get by” on the streets – living in their car, in a tent, or in other locations not meant for long-term human habitation.
4. Hidden Homelessness
Hidden homelessness is the least documented and reported type of homelessness because people typically don’t go to a shelter or use other forms of homelessness services. Hidden homelessness can look like couch-surfing or staying with friends or family without any guarantee of being able to stay long-term, or finding other permanent housing.
What Is The Housing-First Model?
For years, many housing assistance programs required clients to fix the causes of their homelessness (substance use disorder, unemployment, etc) before they could qualify for housing. But over the years the flaws in that system have been revealed.
Housing-First is a transformative approach that prioritizes placing individuals experiencing homelessness in stable housing, irrespective of their economic status, disabilities, or substance use issues. The central tenet of Housing First is to provide a safe, stable place to live…then address the underlying causes of homelessness.
The Housing-First model is an evidence-based approach to addressing homelessness that prioritizes providing immediate and unconditional housing to homeless individuals. It recognizes that stable housing is a fundamental human right and a critical step toward addressing other challenges such as mental health issues, addiction, and unemployment.
Here’s why the Housing-First model is so essential:
- Immediate Shelter: The Housing-First model breaks the cycle of homelessness by addressing the most immediate need — shelter. Providing a stable and safe place to live allows individuals to stabilize their lives, focus on their well-being, and seek assistance for underlying issues.
- Removing Barriers to Housing: The model challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about homelessness, emphasizing that housing is a basic right, not a reward for good behavior. It offers unconditional housing opportunities, removing obstacles that often prevent homeless individuals from accessing shelter and support.
- Supportive Services and Wraparound Care: Housing First recognizes that every homeless person’s journey is unique. It tailors supportive services to individual needs, including mental health treatment, addiction support, and life skills training. By providing these services within the context of a stable home, individuals can work toward long-term stability and independence.
One of the most significant misconceptions about Housing First is the idea that individuals must meet certain criteria or complete specific programs before being housed. While finding housing is the primary goal, other services such as mental health support can and should be provided simultaneously. Housing is never withheld based on a person’s disability, substance use, or income, which is a fundamental departure from traditional homelessness assistance models.
The Broader Impact
The positive impact of the Housing-First model extends beyond the individuals it directly serves. By reducing the burden on emergency services, strengthening communities and local economies, and fostering compassion and social cohesion, this model paves the way for long-term solutions to homelessness. When our neighbors in need have access to safe and supportive housing, they get one big step closer to leading self-sustaining lives. That’s a win for our entire community.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit endeavors.org.