We are sure you've heard us talking about how we support the Housing First program here in Edmonton. But what does "housing first" really mean?
‘Housing First’ is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supportive treatment services in the areas of mental and physical health, substance abuse, education, and employment.
Housing First in Canada: Supporting Communities to End Homelessness says, “Housing is not contingent upon readiness, or on ‘compliance’ (for instance, sobriety). Rather, it is a rights-based intervention rooted in the philosophy that all people deserve housing, and that adequate housing is a precondition for recovery.”
Everyone deserves the right to safe, adequate housing. Period.
Housing First involves providing clients with assistance in finding and obtaining safe, secure and permanent housing as quickly as possible. Participants are very involved in the process of finding their housing.
Choice is a really big part of Housing First. Participants are able to exercise some
choice regarding the location and type of housing they receive (e.g. neighborhood, congregate setting, scattered site, etc.). Although choice may be constrained by local availability and affordability, we work with our participants to get them the best possible placements to meet their needs and to set them up for success. Participants also have choices in terms of what services they receive and when to start using services.
Choice is really what Find is all about as a furniture bank. Each participant has the opportunity to come into the store and shop for their furniture free of charge with the support of their Housing Worker and our Housing First Furniture Bank Coordinator. They get to choose the couch, dresser, dinning table and chairs that go into their new space. Again, selection varies from day to day because we are driven by donations, but participants get to choose what best suits them for their space from what has been generously given to us by the community.
Once the participant is safe and secure in their housing journey, the focus then becomes recovery based. A recovery orientation focuses on individual well-being. It ensures that clients have access to a range of supports that enable them to
nurture and maintain social, recreational, educational, occupational and vocational activities.
The best part about Housing First is it is client-driven and individualized for each person and their own specific needs. Once housed, some people will need minimum supports, while other people will need supports for the rest of their lives (this could range from case management to assertive community treatment). Individuals are provided with “a range of treatment and support services that are
voluntary, individualized, culturally-appropriate, and portable (e.g. in mental health, substance use, physical health, employment, education)” (Goering
et al., 2012:12).
Another cool part of Housing First, is that workers really take the time to help people integrate into their communities with socially supported engagement and meaningful activities. We don't want anyone to feel isolated in their new space, so integration is incredibly important to the Housing First model.
There is also a Housing First program that was designed specifically for youth. Not only does it provide housing stability, but it is also designed to support young people 13-24 years of age and facilitate a healthy transition to adulthood.
Edmonton has been practicing Housing First since 2009. We are lucky enough to work with 14 amazing agencies in Edmonton who practice Housing First and Youth Housing First who are all working towards the same goal: Ending Homelessness in Edmonton. To date we have housed over 8,100 people and have a very successful rate (86%) of people staying housed through the Housing First program within the first year.
If you would like to learn more about Housing First and it's origins and homelessness in Edmonton, please take a look at the resources below: