Housing First: What is it and why do we use it?
Housing First is the evidence based practice that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness ultimately creating an immediate, more stable environment for households while ending their homeless episode. It is the idea that housing is a basic human right that everyone should have access to without having to “earn” it. By providing housing, households experience various improvements in their quality of life while working towards their dreams. There are 5 key components of Housing First: Immediate access to housing without having to be housing ready, consumer choice and self-determination, recovery orientation/focus, individualized and client driven, and social/community integration. Households that are served at Newcap come from various backgrounds which include a variety of different barriers to housing such as but not limited to: minimal or poor rental history, bad credit, criminal background, household size, and mental and physical health limitations. We believe in providing access to housing to as many households as possible to assist them in their journey towards healing. Each household’s journey is going to look different and occur at different time frames but ultimately it all begins with access to housing.
There is a psychological theory called Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs that supports the practice of Housing First. Back in 1943, Abraham Maslov proposed the idea that there are layers of needs that have to be met to subsequently meet other areas of need in life. It’s the concept that people’s behavior is ultimately dictated by needs that are either met or not met, starting with physiological needs and working up to self-actualization. Looking at the pyramid depiction of his theory, one can see that the 5 motivational needs of human behavior all start with meeting the bottom layer: Physiological Needs. Within that level of need falls air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. Maslov proposed that in order to feel safe, loved, and a sense of esteem and self-actualization, those very basic needs in the bottom tier must be met. This is the exact same concept as Housing First. How does anyone focus on anything else in life when they are constantly in survival mode? It is nearly impossible to focus on increasing your income or improving your sense of self-worth when your mind is always thinking: “Where am I going to sleep tonight? When am I going to eat next? When will I get to do laundry and shower next? How am I going to get my kids to school?” By providing housing without preconditions and with the understanding that everyone (regardless of what their barriers are) deserves housing, we are naturally assisting people with all other areas of life in their own due time.
By Erika Villacrez, Co-Housing Director