The basic rules of Housing First are:
- Dont make any disturbance in the neighborhood.
- Pay the rent (on time)
- Accept guidance
The concept of Housing First came over from the United States in 2006. It’s based on the idea that homeless people with an addiction (or other mental illness) would primarily benefit from having their own home. In Amsterdam, the former director of housing association De Alliantie introduced the term. He believed in both the humane and the economic side of the concept. Housing First proved not only to be good for the quality of life; the costs for society also turned out to be lower than if a client remained living on the street.
The first team that put Housing First into practice for De Alliantie was called Discus, after the street the first office was located: Discusstraat. Arkin, the former Jellinek Mentrum, joined the team as a specialist in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and addiction. It was for practical reasons that the new organisation joined healthcare institution HVO Querido. After all, the work mostly consisted of social work, which is more in line with a healthcare institution than with a housing association. Treating patients was no longer a condition so Arkin subsequently left the project. However, the partnership with De Alliantie and Arkin has always remained, as has our team’s name: Discus.
WE’VE GOT A HOUSE FOR YOU!
Back in the day, employees stood on the corner of the street to address potential clients. “Are you looking for shelter? We’ve got a house for you!” People were literally taken from the street and put in a home shortly after. They paid rent directly to De Alliantie, When they were independent enough, the contract was put into their name. The house was theirs. Due to agreements with other social authorities, we do no longer has the freedom to hand out houses like that. There is even a waiting list. However, the mentality of the employees still exists.
THE WISH TO TERMINATE THE COLLABORATION
When all homeless people with an mental illness have a roof over their head, the work of Housing First is complete. In that sense, we are by definition orchestrating our own demise. Even though it might only be possible in theory, it ultimately is our end goal.
Example:Party due to his mental illness, a client might be very noisy in his or her own home. Eviction is imminent. To prevent this, it is possible to provide the person with extra guidance for six hours a week. We will receive money to change our client’s behaviour. So this appears to be an appealing situation. However, it suits us better to see if there are other possibilities that are more out-of-the-box. Like contacting other agencies to see if there are housing available with soundproof walls (if we don’t have any). The residents might be willing to exchange.
This approach might be less beneficial for our wallet, it is however a big step towards solving a social problem. Knowing that we will exist until the last homeless person has a house provides us with the freedom to think way outside the box.
A SUCCESSFUL APPROACH
So… Putting Housing First into practice: check! The amount of people who get to keep their homes is enormous, and both client and employees are satisfied with the way of working. Society saves money for every client that receives a home through Discus. It’s a win/win situation.
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