House made of puzzle pieces with one piece missing
Health Policy, Recommendations, Social Determinants

Housing First helps homelessness and saves money

Housing First is catching on across the county with great results. In this model, homeless and housing-unstable individuals are provided with permanent housing before the organization attempts to address other issues like substance use and employment.

The Housing First Model has seven core tenets:
1. There are few if any prerequisites to permanent housing
2. There are few barriers to entry.
3. They allow for rapid entry to housing
4. Supportive services are encouraged but are ultimately voluntary
5. Tenants have full legal rights, responsibilities, and legal protections
6. They include policies, like installment payments for missed rent, that help prevent evictions.
7. This model can be applied in many housing types.

The University of Illinois Hospital started a Housing First modeled program as they a direct connection between housing and health. In November 2015, they committed $250,000 to re-housing their homeless frequent emergency department users. Among the program recipients the hospital has seen a 57% reduction in inpatient stays and a 67% decrease in emergency department utilization since its inception.  This means healthier people and less cost on the already strained medical system.

Though some may find the idea of providing housing without additional stipulations controversial, even our federal government has started endorsing this practice.  On the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness’s website, the first item listed under “solutions” is to deploy a system-wide housing first program. By providing homes without additional barriers, Americans save up to $23,000 per participant compared to the cost of traditional housing programs.

As this model spreads across the country, support it with your votes and actions.  Look for politicians who support this model and want to allocate city funds toward housing first.  Its just one more way we can help our fellow humans.




  • Kaeleigh Damico

    Housing First policies are more fiscally responsible and more effective means of addressing homelessness. People often oppose these policies in terms of “desert;” why should person A get a house for free when person B has to work for their home? However, the relationship between work and housing is actually more cyclical. Having a stable home makes a person more likely to have and hold a job; the Housing First policies have had positive impacts on employment among homeless individuals. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win solution.