What is ‘housing first’?

Housing first is a philosophy that first emerged in the 1990s and has taken hold as a cost-effective way to reduce homelessness.

In a more traditional approach, a homeless person would be given space in an overnight shelter while trying to find work or get sober or healthy enough to secure housing. But with housing first, people are given a safe, stable place to live and offered support, whether its for substance use disorder, mental illness, physical health or employment training.

“We really feel housing is itself therapeutic,” said Hillary Colcord, the director of Huston Commons, a housing-first facility in Portland.

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