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 problems.
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 housing.
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 abuse.
“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.