In the past, homelessness was viewed as a problem to be managed - with shelters, drop-in centres and other emergency supports. People had to be prepared for, or transitioned into, housing. They needed to deal with mental health problems, tackle addiction issues or find a job first.
The Housing First philosophy turns that approach upside down. The first step is to find a homeless person their own permanent home. The next step is to ensure he has the supports he needs to be successful in that home. Because the best place to tackle the underlying issues that lead to homelessness is in safe, secure housing – not on the streets.
How it works
Becoming part of the program.
Outreach workers identify people for the Housing First program. It may be over cups of coffee in a support centre. Or it may require frequent conversations in the river valley. Many homeless people are desperate to get into their own home right away. Others are so consumed by day-to-day survival, they take time to fully understand that a home is a real possibility.
Finding an apartment.
The homeless person and support worker talk to the landlord together, sign the lease and get the utilities hooked up.
Setting up a home can be a daunting task: so many details to attend to. The newly housed person can choose good quality, gently used furniture at Find Edmonton. The support worker takes him shopping for his first groceries – helping him decide what to select, what is most nutritious and how to spend wisely. And together they may make a budget for household expenses.
Settling in and determining supports.
The Housing First program generally lasts a year. During that time the newly housed person gets the supports they need to make the transition into their new life - to tackle mental or physical health problems, to deal with addiction issues.
Graduating from Housing First.
After approximately one year, newly housed people who are able are transitioned to other support services as required.