Research shows that the best way to help someone who is homeless is to provide housing – as immediately as possible. The longer someone is homeless, the more that person loses. They lose connection with their families, friends and community, they lose their physical and mental health, and they lose all or nearly all of their worldly possessions. The longer someone is homeless, the more difficult it is for that person to regain long-term stability.
Some people feel that Housing First may be providing too much to people who do not deserve it. However, the costs of Housing First to the community at large have proven to be far less than the costs of transitional approaches to service that require behavioral changes before housing will be provided. And Housing First has proven to be dramatically less expensive than doing nothing – the approach that leads to chronic homelessness and expensive use of emergency rooms, hospitalization, imprisonment, and police involvement.
You can read more about Housing First approaches to homelessness at https://www.usich.gov/solutions/housing/housing-first on the website of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
- Our Supportive Housing Programs are for individuals and families with disabilities who would not normally be able to afford housing at market rate. Many of the heads of household cannot work because of a disability, and as result they don’t have enough income or have other barriers that mainstream landlords screen out. These barriers include not only health issues related to their disabilities but also histories of evictions, unemployment, substance use, arrests, and imprisonment. Over time, residents in these programs typically improve their health, reduce substance use, repair their credit, increase personal connections to family and the community, stay out of the emergency room, and remain off the streets.
- Our Re-Housing Program makes use of “rapid re-housing” funding (when available) from the City of Evanston and from the State of Illinois to help homeless or near-homeless people secure market rate apartments. When someone is homeless and working but starting from scratch with no savings, it is nearly impossible to save the money needed to pay for a security deposit and the first month’s rent. Our programming provides assistance to cover this cost, without requiring the participant to give up other necessities or remain homeless while saving. Sometimes this is all the help a household needs to move from short-term homelessness to long-term housing stability.
- Connections’ Our House program helps homeless young men, ages 18-24, who need housing but do not yet have the resources to manage or pay for living in their own apartments. In the program, they develop career paths and life skills that will help them transition into an adulthood that includes self-sufficiency and independent housing stability.
The unfortunate reality is that, while Housing First is the best practice, there just isn’t enough housing that is affordable, nor enough money available to pay for that housing, to house all of the homeless people in our community. Next week, I will address our struggle to address the overwhelming need of the community when best practices aren’t enough.