In affordable housing, I see two camps: housing ready and housing first.
The housing ready camp says people need to be set up for success. Can they pay their bills, cook, shop, be good neighbors? People need certain skills to live in a house or apartment. They must demonstrate they know how to be a good neighbor, abide by the rules of the lease, and show they have good budgeting and bill paying skills. Without those skills success is limited and we are setting them up for failure.
The housing first camp sees housing as ideal intervention. They suggest giving a person who is homeless, a clean, safe place to live regardless of their condition, credit rating, history, or compliance. The home will encourage and add to the work being done for recovery and growth. The housing first camp says we must build the support system to assist where the person cannot figure out how to do for themselves.
People in the housing first camp see housing as good medicine and a human need. They say a little effort up front will help a person become a contributor to their community, but without the help, they will not attain that achievement. People in the housing readiness camp see individuals as having choices and see themselves as good stewards of public funds. People in this camp may have managed a housing program that had limited resources and dealt with crises caused by someone who use to be homeless with limited skills or boundaries.
Here are two recent national news articles that have outlined the needs and demystified those who have found themselves homeless. Housing the homeless can save money and Anderson Cooper’s: How I see homeless people now.
Conclusion, there’s room for both principles when working with people. Nationally and regionally, more housing programs and funding are turning toward the housing first camp. For example, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the state-wide housing finance agency, now has a preference for providing housing first for those who are literally homelessness for all of their federally funded Housing Choice Vouchers. Additionally, Community Housing Network has a Renter’s Readiness class that we offer for free a few times a month. Our Housing Resource Center, homeless outreach and community programs work on housing goals with everyone we come in contact with. Call us for details at 248-269-1335.