Housing First Research Digest: Volume 7

“Housing First, Meaningful Activity, and Well-being”

When individuals exit homelessness through Housing First (HF) programmes, individualised wraparound services are put into place to support them to maintain their tenancies and embark on journeys of recovery from physical health, mental health, and substance use problems. Much attention has been given to how HF, compared to traditional staircase services, promotes rehabilitation-focused recovery in these domains, while relatively less attention has been given to growth-related recovery of happiness, well-being, and a meaningful life.

This edition of the Housing First Research Digest, curated by Ronni Greenwood and Niamh Hogan of University of Limerick, Ireland, brings together three studies that examined the efficacy of homeless services and intervention programmes designed to create or broaden clients’ opportunities to participate in activities and roles that are personally meaningful and culturally relevant for their life stage.

The research featured in this selection demonstrates that the key structural features of Housing First programmes – client-led, independent, scatter-site housing with wraparound supports – afford clients opportunities to engage in meaningful activities that are associated with happiness and well-being (Patterson et al., 2015). Marshall and colleagues (2022) identified the ways in which having an independent home of their own was experienced by clients as providing a platform not only for symptom management but also for meaningful social connections and meaningful activities. Interventions such as the Life-Enhancing Alcohol-Management Program (LEAP; Collins et al., 2020) create structures and opportunities for participants to develop and enact valued roles and skills, which, in turn, are associated with lower rates of alcohol use and better quality of life.

Together, this research illustrates the importance of a home of one’s own and both formal and informal opportunities for genuine, authentic engagement in personally meaningful, culturally relevant and appropriate roles and activities for growth-related recovery from homelessness. HF services that adopt programmes like LEAP or others, such as WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), are more likely to not only facilitate pathways out of homelessness but also toward fuller, richer lives.  


Collins, S. E., Goldstein, S. C., King, V. L., Orfaly, V. E., Gu, J., Clark, A., … & Clifasefi, S. L. (2021). Characterizing components of and attendance at resident‐driven Housing First programming in the context of community‐based participatory research. Journal of Community Psychology, 49(5), 1376-1392. 


Marshall, C. A., Gewurtz, R., Ross, C., Becker, A., Cooke, A., Roy, L., … & Kirsh, B. (2022). Beyond Securing a tenancy: using the capabilities approach to identify the daily living needs of individuals during and following homelessness. Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness, 1-15. 


Patterson, Michelle L., et al. “Exiting homelessness: perceived changes, barriers, and facilitators among formerly homeless adults with mental disorders.” Psychiatric rehabilitation journal 38.1 (2015): 81. 

This volume of the Research Digest is Ronni Greenwood and Niamh Hogan, from the University of Limerick in Ireland.

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