Housing First is the first book chronicle the story of Housing First (HF). Housing first is a paradigm-shifting evidence-based approach to ending homelessness that had its roots in New York and spread to other cities both nationally and internationally. In the book, the authors focus on the rise of the homeless industry o transitional housing programs and shelters that the Housing First approach directly challenged by rejecting the conventional demands of treatment, housing readiness and sobriety. The authors of the books based it upon principles of harm reduction, consumer choice and the instantaneous access to permanent independent housing in the society. The media accounts of Housing Firsts approach in conjunction with the evidence base resulted in the widespread adoption of the HF approach in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The book is successful in shedding light on how the various systems resist and eventually adapt to any change particularly in the volatile environment of homelessness.
One of the key themes discussed in Housing First is homelessness. From the onset of the book, the authors trace the history of homelessness in addition to the rapid growth of the homeless industry that is publicly funded, an amalgam of philanthropic and religious organizations, non-profit and advocacy groups that were not able to stem the tide of homelessness that was as a result of dramatic reductions in affordable housing. The authors note that the key reason why people find themselves homeless is that they are poor. Poverty however as a topic has been neglected for a long time due to the individuals problems that individuals bring to the fore such as mental health issues and addiction.
In the bid to support the theme of homelessness in Housing First, the authors provided a story of how the Housing first approach started and spread to other countries. The authors note the individuals who were responsible for implementing the approach from the start and other individuals who have conducted several vital studies over the years. The authors use two different models, the treatment-first model or continuum of care and the Housing First manual to explain the theme of homelessness. From the first treatment model, housing is viewed as a goal, and an individual can achieve the goals by proving that they are house ready. It is imperative to comprehend that the constant problem in the treatment first model is uncertainty. This is because there are high levels of uncertainty since as probable house owners do not know when they are ready to progress to the next step or what they will do to progress. According to the authors, the continuum of care model leads to an institutional loop that is sometimes termed as a cruel and costly circle of loop (8). From the Housing Model perspective, housing is considered as a precondition that will enable a person to deal with other problems that they may have. The authors note that the two models can be viewed as competing for institutional logics. Although the Housing First Model is viewed as a paradigm shift, it is the treatment model that is still dominant thereby making it difficult to see the Housing First model as a paradigm shift. However, Housing first initiated a shift in its approach in that its consequences could lead to a paradigm shift.
The key critique that I have with the book is that the authors find it difficult to provide a more specific account of the diffusion of the Housing First approach in the European context. Additionally, there lacks a more sensitive description of the very diverse welfare states, welfare regimes or welfare markets in Europe. The sections discussing the European context have been compressed, and the authors did not emphasize the complexity of the issue of homelessness in reality for example in the Nordic countries. The other challenge that exacerbates the situation is that the research by the authors is produced in other languages than English is problematic to access. Although the focus of the research is in English, the book is focused mainly on an American knowledge base making it very evident. This means that some of the crucial research findings made by the authors may be lost in translation. I believe that in some instances, it is more relevant to analyze the differences and similarities of the cities rather than the countries as a whole. Nonetheless, since some aspects of macro comparisons of welfare regimes do not make any substantial implications currently, the local scale has gained traction in regards to social policy. Moreover, there are various other strategies that can be adopted in the municipalities or regions within a welfare state.
One of the key advantages of the book is that it explains in context the various kinds of supports, for instance, the housing supports, clinical supports, and complementary supports. The authors go to a long extent to explain how Housing First is applied in different contexts. From the authors, strategy implementers have to consider different models. It is imperative for one to consider housing first in regard to philosophy, systems approach and in teams.
Some of the disadvantages of the book is that although it recognizes that the majority of Housing programs are geared towards individuals who have been chronically homeless, I feel that the application of the Housing First Program does not give ample time to the participants especially for individuals who have been residing with barriers such as addiction and trauma for multiple years. This is because when meeting individuals where they are and not mandating a compulsory service provision in the bid to receive housing if factored in, then the process of change and engagement can become lengthy and tiresome. The second disadvantage with the book is that there is a dissonance that exists between the evidence-based research fidelity and robust results. It is vital to note that the book offers a great starting point for addressing the difficulties that may be faced in the future regarding homelessness in instances where queries for addressing local adaption and fidelity have their place.
The participation of the founder of Housing first approach (Tsemberis) and other authors experts in social policy give credibility to the book. Moreover, there is a unique deployment of organizational theories, implementation and institutional to conceptualize the rise of the Housing First approach and its wide adoption in many countries worldwide in addition to the resistance that they may face in some places. The books are however highly informative since it is readable and scholarly. Housing First addresses the wider issues of systems change and innovation in human and social services. The inclusion of various different expert voices and approaches that include policymakers, advocates, consumers and their advocates make it interesting to read.
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