Housing First is an approach to dealing with homelessness that was developed in New York in the 1990s, successfully showing that offering homeless people housing first, before other services in traditional approaches, improves housing stability. Ten percent of America’s homeless population are unaccompanied youth ages 18 to 24, who have twice the rates of mental disorders and face long-term impacts from the chronic stress and deprivation associated with homelessness.
A new study,”‘Housing First’ for Homeless Youth WithMental Illness,” offers the first experimental evidence that Housing First for homeless youth with mental illnesses improves housing stability relative to usual care.
Researchers assigned 156 homeless youth aged 18-24 to treatments, 87 individuals to Housing First and 69 to usual treatment, and followed them for 24 months. Youth in Housing First were stably housed a mean of 65 percent of days in the study, compared to 31 percent for their peers.
Researchers concluded that Housing First is associated with improved housing stability for homeless youth with mental illnesses, but that further research is needed to explore if adaptation of the model for youth could help yield additional improvements in stability and other outcomes.