Housing First: Client choice
The second of the 5 key components of Housing First is the idea that it is consumer driven. The program participant has a right to have a say in where they want to reside, along with the extent of their participation in services.
Many housing programs utilize scattered site housing. While the benefits of this type of housing is often compared to congregate program settings, experts tend to lean towards scattered site program types when it comes to Housing First. By allowing program participants to have a say in their apartment and neighborhood, we are creating an environment of pride in their living situations. Creating that pride and sense of ownership ultimately leads towards increased stability – they are more likely to take care of their units and more likely to want to maintain their unit. When there are fewer landlord and neighbor complaints and concerns, their length of stay in their chosen unit is longer.
Newcap’s housing department staff will sit with program participants and discuss what neighborhood they would like to live in and what they desire with their unit. Once a unit is identified by either the participant or the staff member, staff assist with arranging a tour of the unit and a landlord meeting if the participant wants. Ultimately the client has the choice as to whether or not they would like to move forward with the unit, as long as the unit meets program and funding requirements. Developing that excitement around the unit also assists in improving mental health, along with their sense of self worth and dignity.
When it comes to consumer driven services, program participants have the choice to decide when and how they would like to begin receiving supportive services. We cannot force people to make change or to do things as they all have the free will to make their own decisions. There has to be buy in from the participants in order to experience active participation in their dream making and achievements.
Housing First programs that embrace client choice based programming and housing, see people that are more likely to engage with staff and make authentic positive steps towards healing.
By Erika Villacrez, Co-Housing Director