Newer Approach to Reduce Homelessness Working - Housing First
The rector from Church of the Holy Cross in Downtown Shreveport adopted a version of the "Housing First" strategy and based on results thus far, he calls it a success.
Nearly 600,000 people are homeless in the U.S. But a relatively newer (1990s) model appears to be showing strong signs of success locally. That’s the word from the rector at the Church of the Holy Cross in downtown Shreveport, which expanded services for their day shelter for homeless people. “We look for people that are the types of homeless people who have just sort of run out of luck” explains Rev. Garrett Boyte, “and they really just need a hand up.” That help includes placing qualified candidates in permanent housing by working closely with participating property owners and managers.
Father Boyte calls his church outreach program “Deposit First.” A critical component of Deposit First is addressing the biggest hurdle to starting a new life off the streets - having enough start-up funds. “You know, you think of first month’s rent, the deposit, electricity deposit, water deposit,” counted Rev. Boyte, adding, “all these things are incredibly costly for somebody who might be receiving a state benefit check.”
Beyond finance, other obstacles can include an addiction problem, or mental illness, which Father Boyte says in his program must be addressed first, primarily because they establish situations where the person is set-up for success, not the risk of failure.
Boyte describes the Deposit First program as a proven, unqualified success. “Since 2019 we’ve housed 246 people, including some, you know, some 50 or so children, who are part of families.” The program requires the person to be in life-school classes for six weeks. So far, this year, they’ve already housed 88 people. Father Boyte says it costs about $500 for each case which he calls money well spent.
On a wider scale, the National Alliance to End Homelessness refers to this approach as “Housing First.” This alliance says there is a large base of evidence that the model works. One example includes a 2021 study found that "Housing First programs decreased homelessness by 88% and improved housing stability by 41%, compared to Treatment First programs."
Perhaps that helps explains the Biden administration's decision to make the Housing First model the centerpiece of All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The ultimate goal of the plan: Reduce homelessness by 25 percent by January 2025.