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Home Safe Home: The Housing First Program

Escaping violence shouldn't mean living on the streets

  • July 09, 2014
  • By domesticshelters.org
Home Safe Home: The Housing First Program

Many survivors of domestic violence find that they have to move out of their homes in order to start a new, safe life. Unfortunately, not all survivors have a safe place to go or the means with which to rent or buy a new home. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children. [1] A 2010 report showed that, of mothers with children who were homeless, more than 80 percent had been in a domestic violence situation previously.[2]

Luckily, an innovative program was developed in the early ’90s that aims to help people in this situation. Called “Housing First,” the approach focuses on helping homeless individuals, or those in the shelter system, find permanent rental housing as quickly as possible and then providing other services as needed. [3]

What is Housing First?

Instead of moving individuals through different levels of housing—such as from a public shelter to a transitional housing program to their own place, or, what’s called the Continuum of Care—the idea behind Housing First is to move those who need a home directly into one and then address the issues that led to the homelessness. These issues can range from poverty to mental illness to drug addiction, but domestic violence is also a cause.

According to the  National Alliance to End Homelessness, social services to enhance individual and family wellbeing can often be more effective when people are in their own homes. Currently, Housing First programs are being implemented in a handful of cities around the U.S., including New York City, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as in other countries including Canada, France and Finland. The program is endorsed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness as a “best practice” for governments and service agencies. The hope is that the program will be effective long-term in lowering homeless populations around the country.

[1] http://www.nlchp.org/program.cfm?prog=3

[2] http://partnering-for-change.org/initiatives/housingdomestic-violence/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_First and http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/what-is-housing-first