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Housing First assistance program for the homeless.

Non-profit organizations partner with the federal government on offering the Housing First program in communities across the nation. This program will try to help the mid to long term homeless find a new, affordable home to live in. It will help them with paying expenses, including by offering rent subsidies or money for a deposit, and also provide long term support services.

This program differs from many other services as the client is first placed into a safe and affordable home or apartment. It attempts to completely bypass a shelter or other short term, transitional home. Only after that is done will the individual be required to participate in other services, such as counseling, enrollment into substance abuse treatment or job training. This means that the lack of shelter is even more important than self-sufficiency.

The approach implemented by Housing First is just that; find a place for the person to live and then address other needs. Once a family has a permanent residence to come home to every day, many studies show that it is then easier to achieve the goal of long term stability. There is often low-cost housing without a list period as part of the program.

Many of the clients of Housing First are chronically homeless, or that have been without stable accommodations for many months. While the definition of how long that time-frame needs to be will vary by administering agency and county, a priority will usually be for those applicants that have been homeless for 6 months or more. There is also an emphasis on individuals with a significant barrier that they need to overcome. Examples of applicants are as follows.

  • Senior citizens that live on a limited or fixed income.
  • Housing First will assist the long term unemployed or those with a sudden reduction in their income.
  • HUD also will emphasize that assistance goes to applicants with a drug or alcohol addition.
  • The disabled, whether from a physical condition, chronic illness or mental condition can get assistance.
  • Veterans can also get the accommodations they need.

Many county and city government rely on Housing First as a solution to addressing this crisis. It has been proven to be an effective model that is an alternative to a shelter and of course homelessness, and it has been duplicated by municipalities across the country.




It works by not only finding individuals or families a permanent residence to live in, but Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants can also be used to pay a good percentage of the costs while the person lives there. So Housing First can pay for the utility or water bills, rent, maintenance, and similar expenses.

Applicants are usually chronically homeless adults. There may also be assistance given to those residents with children as well. Many single moms or dads are able to sign a lease for an apartment as the result of the aid coordinated by Housing First. So their children are therefore obviously major beneficiaries of this service.

No one ever chooses to be homeless. Tenants do all they can to avoid an eviction, and homeowners do not want to be foreclosed on. Some of the root causes to homeless may include when someone loses a job or go bankrupt. Other homelessness is caused by a mental illness or substance abuse, or women may be victims of domestic violence. Housing First can address these situations and many others.

Assistance provided to the homeless

As part of what is provided, the federal government program pays for some or all of the rent, security deposit and utilities. This is where the partnership of landlords is critical, as HUD grants will only pay for the apartment or property if the monthly rate is affordable. For any housing to be considered as part of this program, it needs to be at a rate in which the tenant can pay at most 30 percent of their gross income for the monthly costs. Many families that are homeless or living in poverty struggle to come up with the money for the initial moving or deposit costs, and this program can pay for them. Find other ways to get assistance for paying security deposits.

Many utility companies also work to rehouse the number of homeless in their service territory. They have entered into agreements with HUD to either waive or reduce the connection fees for the set up of electric or heating service. As part of Housing First, they may also offer the chronically homeless that are moving from a shelter a reduced rate on their monthly utility bills. Businesses from most communities also want to be part of the solution, and not the problems that lead to homelessness in this country. There are even referrals for agencies that can show future tenants how to turn on electricity with no money.







Housing First will be used to help individuals and families of all races and religions, and it is a strong alternative to the transitional living programs that many charities offer. It will assist clients as they access and sustain permanent rental housing, and there are no time limits in place. That means as long as they honor the terms of the program, they could live their indefinitely.

After the participant has been moved into the property in which they will reside in, only then will they need to participate in services delivered to promote stability and well-being. So they have a roof put over their heads first, before some of the underlying causes of homelessness are addressed.

Prospective tenants that are seeking to use the Housing First program from HUD, but that have been evicted and have record on it, can also get assistance. The federal government will partner with the client on addressing any legal needs as well as credit issues for individuals that fall into that category. Often having record of a past due notice can make things difficult for the formerly homeless, but find how to rent an apartment with an eviction record.

Find information on Housing First application sites

The program is administered in most states and major counties across the nation. Some of the non-profits that may have information on it, or that can help the homeless apply, including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, or local community action agencies. If they do not operate the services themselves, they will often have referrals to Housing First. Find a listing of local assistance programs and organizations to contact for information.

By Jon McNamara

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