This article from The Financial Page of The New Yorker explains why the Housing First method–the method we employ in Louisville through our Rx: Housing program–has been so effective in Utah.
At the time, the standard approach was to try to make homeless people “housing ready”: first, you got people into shelters or halfway houses and put them into treatment; only when they made progress could they get a chance at permanent housing. Utah, though, embraced a different strategy, called Housing First: it started by just giving the homeless homes.
Housing First has been proven to save cities tens of thousands of dollars in emergency room and incarceration costs. And it works:
Housing First isn’t just cost-effective. It’s more effective, period. The old model assumed that before you could put people into permanent homes you had to deal with their underlying issues—get them to stop drinking, take their medication, and so on. Otherwise, it was thought, they’d end up back on the streets. But it’s ridiculously hard to get people to make such changes while they’re living in a shelter or on the street. “If you move people into permanent supportive housing first, and then give them help, it seems to work better,” Nan Roman, the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Homelessness, told me. “It’s intuitive, in a way. People do better when they have stability.”
Rx: Housing is our collaborative Housing First effort that has housed over 50% of Louisville’s street homeless since 2011. In the next month, we’ll announce the next phase of our Rx: Housing program, so stay tuned to www.louhomeless.org for updates, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/louhomeless.