Trends in treating homelessness

Charitable model – 1900s – now

“Soup, soap, socks and salvation” requires participants to follow rules to qualify for assistance. The focus is on managing homeless through a system of shelters for short term stays.

Treatment First  1950s – now

“Treatment First” is the traditional care of the homeless which required abstinence from alcohol and drugs before receiving housing and services.  “3 hots and a cot” gave shelter and support, typically for 6 months when the participants were expected to graduate; otherwise they had to become homeless to start over again.    Some studies in New York calculated a success rate of 47%.

Housing First 1990s – now

The “Housing First” approach provides housing before any treatment or other care.  Recent studies from Calgary show a success rate of 85%.  Participants can choose their own solutions without a deadline.  Unlike building shelters for short term stays, Housing First focuses on building long-term safe and affordable housing.  Once housed, participants can build their social supports (including informal networks of family and friends, and formal networks of service providers.)  Shelters “bandage” temporarily;  affordable housing “cures” homelessness.

(Charity Intelligence, Homeless in Canada, 2009 and Tanya Gulliver)