In the traditional system, homeless individuals are moved through levels of housing that will eventually lead to independent housing. For instance, from the streets to the shelters, and from the shelters to a housing program, and from a housing program to an independent apartment. In the housing program, treatment is given to battle some factors surrounding homelessness like, substance abuse, mental health, job training, and domestic violence.
Graham Kelly, a former outreach and intake specialist in a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, witnessed the successes of the Housing First model. Kelly believes that there is a highly subjective process in the traditional system where the homeless have to pass ‘gates’ before they are able to be housed. For instance, some of the gates include the completion of treatment or sobriety programs, classes, record expungement, and attendance at religious functions.
Housing First models are revolutionizing outreach methods and have a higher success rate, because there are less strings attached.
The Housing First model places attaining permanent rental housing on the top of the priority list without imposing time limits (National Alliance to End Homelessness, n.d.). After housing is attained, SSVF programs continue to offer a variety of services to promote housing stability and individual well-being on an as needed basis. The chronically homeless will likely need some sort of support on a permanent basis, but the amount of support is considerably less than the traditional model. Kelly states:
The vast majority of homeless individuals and families fall into homelessness after a housing or personal crisis that led them to seek help from the homeless assistance system. For these families and individuals, the Housing First approach is ideal, as it provides them with assistance to find permanent housing quickly and without conditions. In turn, such clients of the homeless assistance networks need surprisingly little support or assistance to achieve independence, saving the system considerable costs.
The Housing First model has shown great success outside of Veterans Affairs. Utah implemented the model in 2005 and has since seen a 72% decrease in homelessness (Carrier, 2015). The Denver Housing First Collaborative (DHFC), did a study that found an overall improvement in the health and residential stability of its participants (Perlman & Parvensky, 2006). The participants had an average of eight years of homelessness, and of this 77 percent have continued to remain housed in the program, and more than 80 percent have maintained their housing for six months (Perlman & Parvensky, 2006).
In Kelly’s experience around the homeless issue he finds that:
…solving that homeless part first provides a rapid foundation for former homeless to address their barriers whole safely housed. The gateways/barriers in place by traditional housing ready programs only expensively prolong homelessness by not addressing the primary issue (homelessness) immediately.