Although the application of Housing First can vary across jurisdictions, these core principles should underpin the foundation of all Housing First programs.
Although the application of Housing First can vary across jurisdictions, the following core principles should underpin the foundation of all Housing First programs. These principles have been adapted from those used in North America and Europe to align with the Australian context.
Housing is a human right. Individuals with high-support needs receive immediate access to permanent housing without needing to meet any treatment or behavioural eligibility preconditions to demonstrate that they are ‘ready’ for housing. Housing First involves providing assistance in finding and obtaining safe, secure and permanent housing as quickly as possible.
Housing and support are separated. Although encouraged, clients are not required to participate in support or treatment as part of their tenancy. This principle runs in contrast to what has been the orthodoxy of ‘treatment first’ approaches whereby people experiencing homeless are placed in emergency services and must address certain personal issues (health, behavioural, etc.) prior to being deemed ‘ready’ for housing having graduated through treatment and sobriety programs.
Clients can access a range of support and treatment services sensitive to their individual and cultural needs for as long as required. Engagement with support services should be voluntary and not a pre-requisite or conditional component of a clients housing tenure. Housing First typically involves three kinds of support including, housing, clinical and complementary supports.
Clients are able to exercise choices about where they live and the type of housing that best meets their needs. This may include accessing a diverse range of housing options in neighbourhoods or areas where clients have existing place-based networks.
Support services work to build trusting relationships with clients through the practice of active engagement without coercion. Support is designed to fit the individual rather than the individual being required to fit the service.
Clients are supported through an approach that promotes social and community inclusion. Support is structured to build acceptance amongst neighbours of people with different experiences, lifestyles and appearances while enabling clients to engage in social and community activities.
The approach to recovery focuses on improving the client’s overall wellbeing, including their physical and mental health, while enabling the prospect of a safer and more secure life. A recovery orientation should enable clients to nurture and maintain social, recreational, educational, occupational and vocational activities.
Access to a harm reduction environment is essential. The approach to harm reduction provides individualised assistance to clients to reduce the negative impact of substance use, gambling, self-harm and high-risk behaviours.
Guided by these principles, Housing First pursues a range of service priorities, which include offering help with sustaining a suitable, well-located home and improving health, wellbeing and social integration. While all Housing First programs ideally share these critical elements, it is important to emphasise that there is no “one size fits all” approach to Housing First — local contexts and cultures must be closely considered when developing place-based Housing First programs.