Welcome to the fourth volume of the Housing First Research Digest!
This edition of the Housing First Research Digest is curated by Maja Flåto (Norwegian State Housing Bank), member of the Housing First Europe Hub Research Work Cluster.
Two of the papers presented in this edition describe and discuss implementation of Housing First programs as policy and practice in the context of US, Australia and Scotland. They both highlight how eligibility (US) and conditionality (Australia and Scotland) impacts who gets housing, and that transitional housing is still widely used. This is explained by several factors, such as availability of housing, individual housing readiness, and cultural embeddedness by the service providers.
The third paper is a short policy review, questioning the evidence base of Housing First, and arguing that the value of transitional housing is not well understood or developed. Together these three recent publications make an interesting base for a discussion of policies aimed at ending homelessness.
Who Gets “Housing First”? Determining Eligibility in an Era of Housing First Homelessness
Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork at a Midwest nonprofit organization, this project considers how a “housing first” approach to homelessness operates in practice. I show how formal implementation of diagnostic tools and prioritized categories reinforces normative beliefs about gender and vulnerability, which shape providers’ understandings about what people have legitimate claims to social support—or who, in other words, are the “truly vulnerable” homeless. I demonstrate that this convergence of organizational mandates and cultural expectations produces a mutually reinforcing process that guides and constrains case management. Through this, three housing eligibility trajectories arise: accessible, guided, and blocked pathways. Although this system benefits many individuals, it produces barriers to support for those deemed ineligible, leaving many in an indefinite state of services limbo. In effect, this system has produced a climate where merely being homeless is no longer enough to be considered sufficiently vulnerable for receiving housing.
Conditionality in the context of housing‐led homelessness policy: Comparing Australia’s Housing First agenda to Scotland’s “rights‐based” approach
Andrew Clarke; Cameron Parsell; Beth Watts
Homelessness services and policy have historically tended to be organised by an explicitly conditional logic, wherein people experiencing homelessness must prove their “housing readiness” before accessing settled housing. This model has been robustly challenged in recent decades by “housing‐led” approaches that ostensibly eschew conditionality and prioritise the rapid rehousing of people experiencing homelessness. Various countries now include housing‐led approaches in the national policy frameworks, including Australia, which overhauled its approach to homelessness in 2008, and Scotland, where a housing‐led approach is supported by a legal right to housing for homeless households. Notwithstanding this policy shift, conditionality remains an enduring feature of responses to homelessness in both jurisdictions. This paper sheds light on this phenomenon by comparing the Australian experience with that of Scotland. We demonstrate how conditionality remains a feature of both jurisdictions; however, there is greater effort in Scotland to identify and minimise conditionality, whereas in Australia it is able to persist relatively unchallenged. We conclude with some reflections on what Australia can learn from Scotland’s relative success, highlighting the importance of a national‐level policy framework and an adequate affordable housing supply.
A reappraisal of contemporary homelessness policy: the new role for transitional housing programmes
Izaak L. Williams
In the U.S. as in many other countries around the world, Permanent Housing (PH) policy based on Housing First (HF) principles has become increasingly important in recent years in tackling homelessness, based on evidence of superior outcomes compared with traditional transitional housing programmes (THPs). This article highlights the limitations of the existing evidence base used to support this policy trend, and highlights the need for more research, as well as consideration of a broader range of evidence, to reappraise the potential continuing value of THPs in producing positive outcomes for homeless populations. I also make a number of suggestions for repositioning the role of THPs in a housing and recovery pathway approach that would help meet the complex needs of vulnerable citizens in the era of Housing First policy.
Thank you for reading!