Overview

Overview

The objective of this Module is to provide an overview of key issues involved in implementing a Housing First program. The implementation process entails activities such as hiring staff and involving people with lived experience, establishing staff supervision and communication protocols, training staff, housing/re-housing participants and providing ongoing supervision and support, offering ongoing and advanced training and technical assistance, and assessing and improving the program. After reading this Module, you should be knowledgeable about:
  • Key Housing First implementation tasks and issues;
  • Common challenges in implementing a Housing First program;
  • Strategies for overcoming implementation challenges.

The information in this Module was informed by research findings from the At Home/Chez Soi project and consultations with stakeholder groups with experience implementing a Housing First program. This interactive Module consists of a Key Messages section, which provides a concise summary of the information presented. The Implementation Tasks section outlines central steps in implementing a Housing First program. The Challenges and Strategies section describes several challenges that groups may encounter during the implementation process, as well as experience-based strategies for addressing these challenges. This Module also includes helpful Resources and Appendices related to implementing a Housing First program, including an Implementation Checklist, reports and articles on implementing a Housing First program, and documents describing policies and protocols related to implementation, based on the At Home/Chez Soi project sites. Several features are integrated throughout the Module, including pertinent videos.

Key Messages

- Implementing a Housing First program entails activities such as hiring staff and involving people with lived experience, establishing staff supervision and communication protocols, training staff, housing/re-housing participants and providing ongoing supervision and support, offering ongoing and advanced training and technical assistance, and assessing and improving the program.

- Common challenges encountered during the implementation process include getting multidisciplinary teams to work cohesively; working with participants in adjusting to their responsibilities as a tenant through the housing and re-housing process; working with landlords in fulfilling their responsibilities as landlords; supporting participants in the community; dealing with difficult emotions and burnout of staff; reorienting program goals; developing a Housing First philosophy and sense of community; engaging people with lived experience; housing and re-housing participants with complex needs; finding housing in limited/challenging housing markets; and ensuring Housing First model fidelity.

- Strategies for getting multidisciplinary teams to work together include avoiding blame and acknowledging and embracing differences as well as common purpose/values; promoting ongoing communication between teams; and developing clear protocols, roles, and responsibilities.establishing the right team at an early stage; engaging local, provincial, and national champions of Housing First; gaining community support; describing potential economic benefits; communicating about Housing First through staff training; and challenging negative staff perceptions of the participant population.

- Strategies for working with participants in adjusting to their responsibilities as a tenant through housing and re-housing processes include supporting participants from the beginning through basic skills training, as well as working with participants to reflect and learn.

- Strategies for working with landlords in fulfilling their responsibilities include educating landlords, and engaging in collaborative problem-solving.

- Strategies for supporting participants in the community include creating positive relationships with program participants; creating community spaces and other resources for feeling connected; facilitating connections with participants by mobilizing the resources of the broader community; being flexible and creative about connecting with participants; and adapting program implementation to local contexts.

- Strategies for dealing with difficult emotions and burnout in clinical/housing staff include encouraging self-care of staff, and taking advantage of team-based case management.

- Strategies for reorienting program goals include meeting participants where they are at; thinking about alternatives to scatter-site housing; ensuring access to capacity-building resources and expertise; and developing innovative, creative job procurement and maintenance opportunities both within the program and through partnerships, education, and advocacy.

- Strategies for developing a Housing First philosophy and sense of community include hiring and training processes as key elements in creating team cohesion; ensuring fidelity to Housing First philosophical principles; building close relationships with landlords; and establishing clear communication with funders.

- Strategies for housing and re-housing participants with complex needs and in difficult housing markets include understanding the housing environment and being creative with it; carefully considering the fit between the person and the environment; hiring dedicated and creative staff that are committed to housing participants; keeping flexible money available at all times; and working with landlords and participants to avoid evictions.

- Strategies for ensuring Housing First model fidelity include conducting fidelity assessments both early and later during program implementation.