"Housing First" programs a good start, but more needed
CALGARY, Oct. 23, 2014 /CNW/ - "Housing First" is a compelling concept that has taken on a powerful status in the world of governments, non-profits and academics who study look for ways to end homelessness.
The "Housing First" principle holds that homeless individuals stand a far poorer chance of improving their condition while they remain homeless; that the stability of a permanent home provides the foundation that allows individuals to begin addressing the issues that led to their housing instability in the first place. Cities across North America, including Calgary, have adopted "Housing First" as the base of their strategies to end homelessness.
But, can Housing First programs really end homelessness?
A report released today by Alina Turner and the School of Public Policy argues that the elegance of "Housing First" as a program risks creating an illusion, wherein agencies and governments might too easily conclude that homelessness can be solved merely by finding housing for the homeless. It's not that simple. "While providing housing is a key step in the process, unless there is a coordination of services to address other issues that perhaps help cause homelessness, this will not fully solve the problem," said author Alina Turner today.
An important part of the coordination of social services is integrated information management, so that different agencies can track what services are — and are not — being provided to each client, to what effect, and how the client's need level changes over time. There must also be formal processes of quality assurance to clarify whether programs are operating as they should, and whether goals — most importantly, improving the condition of clients — are being met.
"There is a growing support for the Housing First approach. This presents an opportunity to make real progress in making wholesale changes to our approaches for ending homelessness, which have been needed for some time. Key to that is leveraging the widespread enthusiasm for Housing First programming into a reform for the entire homeless-serving system. Housing First as a popular catchphrase is not a magic bullet for ending homelessness — but as is a philosophical basis for guiding broader change throughout the system, it has considerable potential to get us closer to the goal of ending homelessness", concluded Turner today.
SOURCE: The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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