Housing First: Immediate access to housing
The first of the 5 key components of Housing First is to provide immediate access to housing without having to be “housing ready” or having to “earn” it. In a nutshell, this means that households do not have to prove their worthiness of housing through sobriety, having income, and meeting other goals first. They are not required to be in counseling, receiving other services, or utilizing treatment programming to be offered an apartment. Prior to the current model of Housing First, there was a belief that folks experiencing homelessness had to meet certain requirements or achievements prior to being housed or even being offered housing. There was a switch a couple decades ago to the idea that social service providers need to be more consumer ready rather than the households having to be housing ready. As an agency, Newcap finds ways to screen people in rather than screen them out – let’s find a way to serve people in any way possible.
As you can imagine, to house people who are actively experiencing untreated trauma, crisis, or addiction can pose an interesting debacle within the community. We cannot do our jobs and provide housing without the assistance of area landlords and property management companies yet there is a stereotype around those that are homeless that we are constantly fighting to overcome. The stereotype is that units will be destroyed, there will be numerous police calls, and that they will be drunk, noisy tenants. Part of our jobs is to provide community education through one on one interactions with landlords, on community panels, and through neighborhood association meetings around the idea of Housing First and the benefits to providing immediate housing without having to meet pre-requisites. When I meet with landlords, I often focus on two areas:
- The human and personal side of homelessness
- Economic benefits to providing housing and partnering with housing programming
When talking with the community, especially landlords, it is important to play to the human side of homelessness. When it comes down to it, we are all one decision, crisis, or life change away from experiencing housing instability and insecurity. Helping folks see that “it could be me” helps them breakthrough some of those stereotypical beliefs that they may have been preconditioned to believe based on others experiences or beliefs. Additionally, if I can show them what providing housing can do for the economical side of the community, they are more apt to take a chance. By partnering with housing programs such as Newcap’s Permanent Supportive Housing or Rapid Re-Housing programming, landlords and property management companies receive consistent and regular rental payments ultimately benefiting their businesses financial stability. Additionally, providing housing and stability to the homeless population helps increase the work force. By providing rental units to the low income and homeless population, landlords are assisting indirectly with people working towards job readiness, and ultimately obtaining employment, often within their own neighborhoods. Providing housing allows households to meet their physiological needs and later focusing on things such as employment. If we can increase our landlord base and available units, providing an immediate access to housing in a literal sense becomes much easier.
By Erika Villacrez, Co-Housing Director