Housing First Research Digest: Volume 6


“Graduating from Housing First?” 

A key principle of the Housing First model is time-unlimited support. For Tsemberis, support should only be withdrawn or discontinued when it is no longer required by the client, “at which point they may graduate”. (Tsemberis, S. (2011). Housing First: The pathways model to end homelessness for people with mental illness and addiction manual. European Journal of Homelessness, 5(2).) 

Graduation has become a common practice in many HF programs. Some programs conceive graduation as one of the possible outcomes that follow the residents’ empowerment and their willingness to take full control of their own lives. Other programs identify graduation as a goal that staff and clients should or must work towards, sometimes within relatively short timeframes. This issue of the Research Digest aims to encourage a discussion on “graduation” and the risks associated with such practice. 

The first article (Anderson-baron & Collins, 2018) considers the pressure that funding institutions and tight housing markets exert on service providers and users. It points to the need to unpack ambiguities concerning graduation practices and the need to reflect on the disjuncture between policy and practice. The second paper (Homeless Link, 2019) explores the evolution of residents’ engagement with support in HF programs. The findings suggest that users have different patterns of support needs over time. The report concludes that services may expect to gradually reduce support over time, but this should not be assumed. The third article (Jadidzadeh et al., 2018) examines the patterns of graduation and the characteristics of clients that graduate from housing programs funded by the Calgary Homeless Foundation. The authors finds that some groups move on from HF programs faster than others, and that some factors (such as a source of income) appear to accelerate graduation from HF. 


Anderson-baron, J. T., & Collins, D. (2018). Not a “forever model”: the curious case of graduation in Housing First. Urban Geography, 39(4), 587–605. 

This article investigates how Housing First is practiced in Alberta, Canada, with a focus on the concept of graduation. In Alberta, clients are expected to graduate – that is, “exit” HF programs – after a certain time. Interviews conducted with 45 participants in three Alberta cities in 2014–15 revealed commonplace, but contested, graduation practices. Interviewees noted that graduation can be necessary to make room for new clients, and may be expected and encouraged by coordinating organizations. They expressed varied concerns about graduation, and the negative influence it could have on client relationships and housing stability. In particular, they emphasized clients’ ongoing dependence on rental subsidies, and the risk of relapse into homelessness. 

Homeless Link. (2019). Exploring patterns of Housing First support: Resident Journeys. 

The report outlines the findings from in-depth interviews with 16 Housing First residents across England. The paper explores how and why residents’ engagement with support changes over time. Through the voices of the residents, the report illustrate the importance of Housing First services adhering to the model’s fundamental principles of the provision of highly intensive, non-conditional support for as long as people need it. The study provides essential evidence to help services, funders, and the Government better understand how support is delivered and experienced within Housing First, while highlighting related implications for the resourcing and delivery of support. 


Jadidzadeh, A., Falvo, N., & Falvo, N. (2018). Patterns of exits from housing in a homelessness system of care: the case of Calgary, Alberta. Housing Studies, 3037, 1–26 

Public officials around the world seek to target subsidized housing as purposely and efficiently as possible. With limited availability of subsidized housing, it is helpful to know which household types require specific types of housing support and for how long. With this in mind, the authors examine the patterns of graduation and the characteristics of clients that graduate from housing programs funded by the Calgary Homeless Foundation. They find singles without dependents to require housing support for the longest period of time, while families require the support for the least amount of time. One important finding is that women require housing support for longer periods of time than men (even after controlling for employment and income).

Thank you for reading!

This volume of the Research Digest is edited by Elisabetta Leni, a researcher at the Y-Foundation in Helsinki, Finland. After working several years in the non-profit sector in Italy, Elisabetta obtained a PhD in Economics at the University of Essex, UK. The current focus of her research is on homelessness. She is also interested in experimental and behavioral economics.


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