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Should ‘Housing First’ Be The Go To Philosophy When Addressing Homelessness?

A man walks past a homeless tent encampment in Skid Row on September 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
A man walks past a homeless tent encampment in Skid Row on September 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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The “housing first” model calls for getting people experiencing homelessness into stable housing first and foremost. Those who advocate for addressing homelessness with this model believe there shouldn’t be any preconditions for people getting permanent housing and that solving other problems, like addiction and mental health issues, should come after.

The Trump administration’s new homelessness czar is speaking out about potential shifts in the longstanding model that’s existed in cities across the country since the 1990s. Robert Marbut, the head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, says he wants local municipalities to have more control over setting policy, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Some long-time advocates agree that the housing first policy isn’t a silver bullet and the lack of development so far is problematic. Los Angeles voters approved a measure in 2016 that subsidizes construction of 10,000 permanent housing units for homeless residents. But according to Curbed LA, only one complex funded by the measure has opened. Other experts argue focusing on getting residents permanent housing first allows them to then tend to mental health or substance us needs after. Today on AirTalk, we look at the pros and cons of the housing first model as homelessness becomes an ever-growing crisis in California communities and across the country.

CORRECTION: On air, we misrepresented the viewpoint of Celina Alvarez, Executive Director of Housing Works, who had called in to comment. We want to clarify that she is in full support of ‘housing first’. 


Ben Kesling, reporter for the Wall Street Journal who’s been writing about this, he tweets @bkesling

Heidi Marston, interim executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; she tweets @hmarston2

Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission; he tweets @abales