Innovation Horizons | Homelessness and Mental Health: The Housing First Model
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Homelessness and Mental Health: The Housing First Model

Homelessness and Mental Health: The Housing First Model

Homelessness disproportionally affects people with mental health disorders. Therefore, there needs to be programs that target this population when working towards alleviating homelessness. Housing First (HF) is a housing assistance model that provides rent supplements in conjunction with mental health support services.

This solution-oriented approach to homelessness has the potential to make an impact on the number of people who can successfully exit homelessness, according to a randomized control trial with the intervention group utilizing HF programming. The study examined different mental health disorders in the population, and the housing trajectory of an individual with a certain disorder. The results of this study showed that HF is strongly associated with rapid transitions to sustained housing.

By combining housing assistance with mental health assistance, the root of the problem is being addressed. People would be less likely to need housing assistance if their mental health were to be stable. Homelessness is a determinant of other poor health outcomes, making it a key issue to address. Combining housing assistance with programs that ensure that people can move on from homelessness and become more stable is how to address this determinant of health.

There should be investments in services that pair rapid access to housing with mental health services. This would save the health system money in the long run and keep people from relying on housing services for longer than needed. Policy makers should prioritize housing programs that use the HF model or one like it. When government bodies show support through policy and funding for a successful model, it is more likely to be popularized. Finally, there should be research into supporting individual needs in relation to housing. Mental health disorders and crises are one determinant of housing instability, but not all metal health disorders operate in the same way, and there are other determinants as well. Therefore, there needs to be research into how to best meet the needs of different individuals so that they can exit homelessness successfully.

To read more about the HF model and the study referred to in this post, follow this link for the publication in The Annals of the American Academy that inspired this piece: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0002716220987220\

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