Sam Tsemberis, who pioneered the Housing First model, has put his ideas to paper.
He has written a book to help bring his innovative housing
approach to more communities across the country. Aimed at
affordable housing practitioners, the new guide provides
instructions on how to structure the key policies and programs for
a Housing First development.
“Housing First: The Pathways Model to End Homelessness for
People With Mental Illness and Addiction” is also meant for
policymakers who decide what programs are supported and funded,
said Tsemberis, founder and CEO of Pathways to Housing.
His approach calls for moving homeless individuals into
permanent housing and then providing the key supportive services
they need to overcome mental illness, addiction, and other
This is a dramatic change from the idea that treatment needs to
come before housing.
There’s growing evidence that Housing First keeps homeless
people off the streets and saves significant taxpayer money.
Providing an apartment and services is often much cheaper than the
emergency room, police, or jail costs that the homeless can incur
while on the streets.
Tsemberis estimates that Housing First developments have opened
in about 100 cities.
As the approach has caught on, there has been a stretching of
the Housing First definition. For example, some transitional
housing developments or shelters may use the term when
Tsemberis’ approach calls for providing permanent supportive
One of the biggest obstacles remains funding. “Any
resistance is more in the sense that we have not created a Housing
First funding stream,” he said. “If you want a program
to be copied and implemented widely, you have to make it possible
for agencies to do that.”
And, the biggest misconception about the model is that it is
housing only, said Tsemberis. The program is aimed at people with
multiple problems, including mental illness and substance
“The success of the program is two-step,” he said.
“There are no barriers to housing. Everybody gets that, but
that’s step one. In order for the program to be success,
it’s the programs.”
The new book provides an overall guideline for what Housing
First should look like. Published by Hazelden, it is available for
$49.95. A package that includes a DVD sells for $265. For more
information, visit www.hazelden.org and www.pathwaystohousing.org.