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AHURI review appraises local and international Housing First programs

09 Aug 2022


‘Housing First’ has become a widely adapted and referenced model to address chronic homelessness in many western countries, since its inception in the US in the early 1990s. Now, to understand the success factors and challenges to implement ‘Housing First’ programs, AHURI Professional Services has published the peer-reviewed Housing First: An evidence review of implementation, effectiveness and outcomes which examines the Australian and international literature on Housing First.

In contrast to previous programs that required people to prove their housing readiness through engaging with support services before being accommodated, Housing First programs offer people experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent housing that is integrated with wrap-around support services without the prospective tenant demonstrating their housing readiness.

A key finding from the research is that Housing First is highly effective in providing housing stability for people with a history of chronic homelessness and complex needs. Evaluations of Housing First programs consistently report high levels of tenants sustaining their housing (typically ranging from 66% to 90%), which is significantly higher compared to ‘treatment as usual’ approaches. 

In addition, as Housing First programs provide access to health, mental health and other support services, tenants are less likely to be admitted to hospitals and emergency departments and are less involved with the criminal justice system. Ultimately, while Housing First is a resource-intensive intervention it is most cost-effective for people experiencing chronic homelessness who have complex and high needs.

The success of the original program in the United States led to Housing First programs being implemented in many countries, including Canada, Australia and in Europe. Large scale examples of Housing First programs that have been evaluated are the Canadian ChezSoi/At Home project and the French Un Chez Soi d’Abord project. In Australia, Housing First principles have informed a range of homelessness and housing approaches, including ‘Street to Home’ and the Common Ground model.

‘The AHURI review is an important overview for everyone in government and organisations tasked with  best supporting people with lived experience of chronic homelessness through implementing Housing First or similar programs,’ says the review author, Dr Christian Roggenbuck. ‘In particular, a critical factor in the success of Housing First programs is being integrated within a systemic policy response to housing and homelessness that addresses social and economic exclusion and, ultimately, aims to prevent homelessness.’
 

Read this report

Housing First: An evidence review of implementation, effectiveness and outcomes

Read this report