Housing First for Individuals and Families


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Solutions Brief | November 27, 2006

Housing First is an approach that guides a set of interventions designed to help homeless people transition more rapidly out of the shelter system; it includes crisis intervention, re-housing as quickly as possible, follow-up case management, and housing support services to prevent the re-occurrence of homelessness. What differentiates a Housing First approach from traditional emergency shelter or housing transitional models is the immediate and primary focus on helping homeless people quickly access and then sustain housing—put simply, housing comes first, then services.

A Housing First approach rests on two central premises:

  • Re-housing is the central goal of working with people experiencing homelessness; and
  • By providing housing assistance and follow-up case management services after a family or individual is housed, can significantly reduce the time people spend in homelessness.

A Housing First approach consists of three components:

  • Crisis intervention, emergency services, screening and needs assessment. Individuals and families who become homeless have immediate needs that should be addressed by providing emergency shelter with the goal of helping them re-access permanent housing as quickly as possible. Service providers should conduct an early screening to assess the client’s immediate and long term needs that will affect a re-housing plan.
  • Permanent housing services. The provision of services to help homeless people access and sustain housing includes working with the family or individual to find affordable units, access housing subsidies, and negotiate leases. Clients may require assistance to overcome barriers, such as poor tenant history, credit history and discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, family make-up and income source. Providers may need to develop a roster of landlords willing to work with the program and engage in strategies to reduce disincentives to participate. The vast majority of Housing First models offer some type of assistance to help families or individuals pay for housing costs, with some providing for basic move-in costs and others providing actual rent subsidies.
  • Case management services. The provision of case management occurs (1) to ensure individuals and families have a source of income through employment and/or public benefits, and to identify service needs before the move into permanent housing; and (2) to work with individuals and families after the move into permanent housing to help solve problems that may arise that threaten the clients' tenancy, including difficulties paying rent or interacting with the landlord, and to connect individuals and families with community-based services to meet long term support/service needs. Case management may be time-limited or on-going and vary in intensity depending on the needs of the specific client.

Housing First providers recognize the need for a unique set of transitional case management services after the move into permanent housing, regardless of whether the individual or family has low, moderate, or high intensity services needs to be addressed longer-term. These transitional case management services are geared to helping the formerly homeless individual or family stabilize in housing following their homeless episode.