Data Points: Housing First for Chronically Homeless Veterans

written by Sam Batko
September 10, 2013

The VA has set the ambitious goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and Congress has responded by funding resources to meet that goal. One of the largest components of the federal government’s efforts to meet that goal is the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. Communities are using two different approaches to implement the program and, according to a new study, one of these approaches is performing significantly better.

The HUD-VASH program provides permanent supportive housing to homeless veterans and their families. It’s designed to target individuals and families who have the most intensive and long-term needs. Here’s a look at the recent study that compares two different approaches that communities are using. The study is titled, “Housing Chronically Homeless Veterans: Evaluating the Efficacy of a Housing First Approach to HUD-VASH,” and the two approaches it looks at are:

  • The “Housing First” model, which prioritizes housing placement and stability with voluntary service participation; and
  • The “housing ready” approach, the usual treatment model that may require participants to maintain sobriety or enroll in treatment programs as a condition for housing.

In this study, the “Housing First” model performed considerably better with regards to housing placement time and housing retention:

  • The Housing First approach placed clients into housing in approximately one month (35 days), while the usual treatment approach took almost 6 months (223 days).
  • The housing retention rate for those served with the Housing First approach was 98 percent while the housing retention rate for those housed with the usual treatment approach was 86 percent.

Researchers on this study found that one of the factors that made a difference was that the Housing First model employs a housing specialist. This specialist maintains a database of available housing units, improves communication with the local PHA, and has access to flexible funds to help with first and last month rents, security deposits, and move-in expenses.