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Housing First or Not?

The Street Fairy’s thoughts on a recent Canadian Study into the Housing First Model

I have heard about the Housing First in San Diego a few years ago, they were beginning this model of supplying housing to homeless veterans and a few county programs first, before connecting them to any other support services like Drug Rehabilitation or Recovery Programs, or Mental Health Services with the thinking that drugs and/or lack of medications were creating additional barriers to successfully receiving services.

Bullshit Propaganda from Property Owners Against the Housing First Model

I remember this because there was significant pushback from the community at large questioning those in charge of spending their tax dollars. There was a public outcry that San Diego County was now offering free housing to drug addicts, dealers and other criminals.

Obviously that is not what county officials were doing but that was the public perception and I remember it having an impact on local elections in the form of attack ads.

The idea is to offer a subsidized housing program without all the conditions that usually go along with those programs but to provide intensive support services after they were housed. There are many hoops to jump through, in a particular order and each program has different hoops, different expectations, and different results.

The Housing First model tries to postpone these barriers and focus on getting keys first. If you are homeless, let’s get you a roof and a door first, then we will have you jump through these hoops and if you don’t comply we will just drop you from the program and you can return to the streets. It seemed to make sense to many and ludicrous to others. But forward it went, and now Canada has studied its outcomes.

This article states that the study had a control group where the participants were offered traditional services and would compare it to the Housing First participants. This is very unsettling for me. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a study requires a certain number of people to suffer without said program in order to study its effectiveness.

I wonder if I had gone to college would I be able to understand this line of thinking. I wonder how I would feel if I found out that this program was handing out keys and the girl in front of me got the keys and then was offered a whole slew of resources to help her keep it and I didn’t because I am in the control group. I got a list of hoops I had to jump through with absolutely no support or resources to tackle that list. For me, this would create a whole lot of anxiety, depression, stress, confusion, and a myriad of other emotions that I am already known to not manage very well.

The other thing I wanted to discuss about this article is the obvious.

Mentally ill homeless adults may have an easier time finding and keeping stable housing when they receive rent supplements and mental health support services, a Canadian study suggests.

Why would it take a group of Canadian Researchers, a boat load of money, a forest of paperwork, and six years to determine that those who got housing and intense support did better than those who had to stay on the streets, unmedicated, untreated with unmet needs. I don’t even have a bachelor’s degree and I can tell you this. I understand that my opinion is not proven fact and that these programs need to be studied to prove their efficacy but couldn’t they have come up with a harder fact to determine?

One of the problems I would like to study is why so many who get housing, lose it in the first 90 days? What happens when you take someone off the streets and put them into an apartment complex with 300 up close and personal neighbors. Most people in the complex also have the same voucher and therefore the coexisting mental health challenges.

There isn’t any counseling, education, coping skills classes to manage this new lease, new responsibilities, quiet times, good neighbor etiquette, etc. You are just expected to know these things and behave accordingly. It is my belief that they just don’t have the skills required to manage this life, no matter how grateful they are for the housing. New recipients of subsidized housing should be offered support in making the transition from one lifestyle to the other, in my humble opinion.

I will continue to post articles on this topic. What are your thoughts on the study or the Housing First Model? What jumped out at you? What, about my commentary would you like to debate? Let me know in the comments. I look forward to a healthy (polite) discussion on this.

The original article was posted on Global News written by Marney Blunt.

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