What is Housing First?

‘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 supports and services as needed. It is an approach first popularized by Sam Tsemberis and Pathways to Housing in New York in the 1990s, though there were Housing First-like programs emerging elsewhere, including Canada (HouseLink in Toronto) prior to this time. The basic underlying principle of Housing First is that people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed. This is as true for people experiencing homelessness and those with mental health and addictions issues as it is for anyone. Housing is provided first and then supports are provided including physical and mental health, education, employment, substance abuse and community connections.

At Home/Chez Soi

In 2008, the Government of Canada allocated $110 million to the MHCC to undertake a research demonstration project on mental health and homelessness. The result? At Home/Chez Soi, a four-year project in five cities that aimed to provide practical, meaningful support to Canadians experiencing homelessness and mental health problems.

At Home/Chez Soi, demonstrated and evaluated the effectiveness of the “Housing First” approach, where people are provided with a place to live and then receive recovery-oriented services and supports that best meet their individual needs. At Home/Chez Soi showed that the housing first approach works in Canada and gives us information about how it works by looking at who it works for, and at what cost.

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