Housing First, Or Housing Not-So-Fast?
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on April 25, 2013
Housing First, the model that says that homeless families need stable housing before they can address other problems in their lives, and which privileges things like rapid re-housing, rental assistance, and permanent housing over increased shelter capacity, has become widely regarded by many in the business as the state-of-the-art approach that will save money and have better outcomes. It got significant funding through the stimulus, and has turned out good results in many places.
But in New York, where the shelter system has a population larger than some small cities, a debate is raging over whether the shelter-to-housing pipeline should be sped up or slowed down. City Limits reports on this debate, and especially on a policy brief from the Insitute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness that claims that rapid rehousing was creating perverse incentives, drawing people into the shelter system, and that the services to address other issues in homeless families' lives should come first to ensure successful rehousing.
The perverse incentives part seems like an argument that I would have expected more from the likes of the the Manhattan Institute than ICPH, especially, as mayoral candidate Christine Quinn points out in City Limits, shelter numbers have stayed high or increased since such programs have been canceled. I don't quite see the argument, but maybe the unexpected source means it's at least worth stopping to think about. Are Housing First programs getting more glory than they deserve?
(Photo by Kymberly Janisch, CC BY-NC-ND.)
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Miriam Axel-Lute is editor of Shelterforce and associate director of the National Housing Institute. Her email is miriam at nhi dot org.