Origins of the Housing First

According to the ideological foundation of the U.S. Pathways to Housing Housing First model housing is a fundamental right, that doesn't need to be earned. Housing forms a basis for a psychosocial recovery process. Housing first is considered as a challenger to traditional housing services also known as the staircase or the continuum of care models. Pathways' model moves people who are homeless and suffer from psychiatric disabilities directly from the streets into apartments of their own, which enables community integration. Applications of housing first model that differ from the original Pathways' Housing First approach are found in different parts of the world.


The essential ingredients of Pathways’ Housing First model

According to the founder and the CEO of the Pathways to Housing Sam Tsemberis the Pathways' Housing First fidelity list includes four essential elements. Housing First principles regardless of country or executor can be outlined through these elements.


Consumer Choice Philosophy
Choice drives both clinical and housing services:

  • Clients choose the type, frequency and intensity of clinical services they want
  • And they choose the location, furnishings and other household items of their apartments


Separation of Housing and Services

Using different criteria for success in housing and success in treatment services:

  • Relapse is anticipated; relapse is a clinical problem not a housing problem
  • Relapse does not mean eviction or loss of housing
  • It means obtaining treatment and returning home
  • Similarly, eviction from housing does not mean discharge from the program (it usually means relocation)
  • Program commitment is to the person not the housing


Recovery Oriented Services
Recovery after homelessness

  • Instilling hope is crucial
  • Meaningful social roles engender recovery
  • Peer support and recovery role models are of primary importance
  • People need knowledge and skills (e.g., supported employment, wellness self management, education)
  • An emphasis on holistic wellness and positive lifestyle is healing (emotional, physical, social, cultural, spiritual)

Community Integration

  • Provide opportunities for social integration
  • Building community supports in integrated neighborhoods
  • Services assist participants with community integration activities - orientation to building
  • Mapping of their neighborhood and community


In a nutshell the basic idea is to first provide housing and then combine that housing with supportive treatment services in the areas of mental and physical health, substance abuse, education, and employment. Housing is provided in apartments scattered throughout a community. This "scattered site" model fosters a sense of home and self-determination, and it helps speed the reintegration of the clients into the community. The model has succeeded when services walk away and the person stays home.


The Pathways model has evidence based results on being successful in addressing chronic homelessness. Since its founding, Pathways has housed more than 600 people in New York alone, and the program maintains an 85 % retention rate even amongst those individuals not considered "housing ready" by other programs. (Tsemberis 2010.)

Get acquainted with the Pathways’ Housing First model here.


Housing First News

24.04.2015 The Own Keys Project by the Finnish NGO Vailla vakinaista asuntoa (NO Fixed Abode NGO) in the FEANTSA Homeless in Europe Magazine spring issue

The FEANTSA Homeless in Europe Magazine discusses Participation: Inclusion, Empowerment and Routes Out of Homelessness. In "Nothing About Us Without Us! The Own Keys Project – People Who Have Experienced Homelessness Develop Services" by Carole Brady, Raija Maunula and Vlada Petrovskaja describe the main themes found out in their project: the importance of trust in cooperation as well as successes and challenges in the work.

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30.09.2014 The evaluation on the Finnish HF Program in 2014

Evaluation on the whole PAAVO program (2008-2015) will be carried out in 2014 as an international research review. The evaluation team consists of distinguished researchers on homelessness issues. The target of the process is to provide information and outlooks on measures in tackling homelessness after the present program period.

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23.09.2013 Programme to eliminate long-term homelessness in Finland during the period 2012–2015

Information and the ARA´s report "Homelessness in Finland 2014"

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30.08.2011 Programme Leader Kaakinen: "it is time to end homelessness"

The Programme Leader of the National Programme to Reduce Long-term Homelessness in Finland, Juha Kaakinen outlines the programme backround and results and the housing first principle in an interview published in the webpage of the Social Innovation Europe.

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18.08.2011 Housing first approach outlined first time in the European level

A European level housing first evaluation and mutual exchange project outlines the housing first approach in European welfare contexts during the years 2011-2013. Read more about the project on

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