Housing First: Key Considerations for Homelessness Partnering Strategy

Information about the Housing First Key Considerations

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) approach to Housing First (HF) focuses on moving people who are experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness as rapidly as possible from the street or emergency shelter into permanent housing with supports that vary according to client need.

The key considerations for the HPS Housing First approach are:

Community Advisory Board composition

When implementing HF, communities may need to engage different partners to plan how to integrate services. The Community Advisory Board (CAB) could include those representing housing, health and public health, police services, corrections, income support, addictions treatment, shelters and other funders and sectors. CABs also need to work closely with their Community Entities (CEs) to achieve maximum outcomes.

Community Planning

HF will be the main driver of the Community Plan, including demonstrating measureable reductions in homelessness. As such, communities will need to focus on the key components needed to achieve the outcomes and build better linkages locally to achieve results. CABs will need to take a comprehensive approach to HF community planning to frame how all available programs, services and local plans (HPS investments, provincial/territorial and municipal programs and services and other existing services) can be linked together to contribute to the shared goal of reducing homelessness. This approach will allow the community to target key resources, shifting resources as needed to reduce homelessness through annual updates to the plan.

Program Models

Communities need to consider which program models that connect housing and supports are most appropriate to implement Housing First in their community.

Service Collaboration

Communities need to know the services that exist in the community and bring partners to the table to facilitate access for HF clients to a variety of supports and services. This will involve working with provinces and territories and other partners to ensure that all services and programs (shelters, housing, health and social services) are coordinated to focus on reducing homelessness. This is often referred to as taking a systems approach.

Housing and Housing Supports

Housing and housing supports are key to implementing HF. Communities will need to understand the housing market and the criteria used for accessing housing. They must engage key landlords and landlord associations to build effective relationships, procure housing stock, connect clients to the housing and be responsive to landlords. Working closely with the service supports, housing supports include providing apartment set-up, facilitating landlord-tenant relationships and offering time-limited rent subsidies.

Service Supports

Service supports are also a required component of HF and complement the housing and housing supports. At a minimum, each community will identify the client needs, match the client with appropriate existing services and facilitate access to these services, including clinical services, when the client is willing. The intention is not to create new services for HF clients, but to use existing services more effectively to serve those with the highest need. As HF serves high-need clients, a simple referral may not be sufficient; the approach should include actively supporting clients to access required services (such as accompanying them to appointments or arranging transportation).

Measuring Outcomes

As a first step, communities need to identify and locate the chronic and episodic homeless populations, coordinating with shelters for access to shelter data. Community indicators and point-in-time counts will contribute to measurement. Communities need to ensure that all projects, whether exclusively for HF clients, or delivered more broadly, set ambitious and measureable outcomes and track clients' results to demonstrate progress towards reducing homelessness. CABs and CEs are expected to base decisions on the evidence collected at the project and community levels.

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