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HÁBITAT · Housing first

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HÁBITAT · Housing first

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Housing First is an innovative model that takes a different approach to tackling homelessness, providing the worst-off groups of homeless people with permanent accessible housing.

HÁBITAT is RAIS Fundación’s Housing First programme for the homeless, enabling us to align ourselves with other European initiatives that are already proving successful. Guided by the principles of Housing First, we are making 38 residential facilities available in Malaga, Barcelona and Madrid, to be subject to a rigorous evaluation process that will enable us to lay the foundations for the widespread introduction of this model as of 2015.
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The reality of homeless people is still a very grey area. A person can end up on the streets for many different reasons, both personal and social. The absence of family and social support networks, chronic illness, mental health problems, lack of income or a house to live in… These are all situations that can make people vulnerable and lead them to homelessness. Social and structural aspects also come into play such as discrimination, difficulties in gaining access to housing and the labour market, ineffective social policy responses and inadequate aid resources.

Traditional responses to homelessness have hitherto been based on the ‘staircase’ approach where the homeless person has to move through a series of stages before being considered ready for permanent housing. From street to shelter, from shelter to overnight centre, from there to a boarding house. This is a long and difficult process for someone who may at any time go back to the street and have to start the entire process from scratch again. Moreover, these types of services are unlikely to provide those with the most complex needs with a definitive solution to their problems.

But is it possible to do things differently? If housing is a key element in terms of improving the situation of a homeless person, why not start right there? It makes sense to think that if we want different results we have to change the way we have been doing things up until now.

The Housing First model was developed in the 1990s by the American psychologist Sam Tsemberis, founder of the New York NGO “Pathways to Housing”. The underlying premise of his approach is that housing is the first thing people should be provided with, in addition to the support they need to help them remain in housing. The programmes that have been conducted on this basis have generated very positive results, with over 80% of people still living in the housing provided for them two years later. In addition, Housing First yields better results and does not cost more than traditional models, offering an efficient and effective alternative that complements the services provided by care networks for people with more serious difficulties.

The main characteristics of Housing First:
- Housing is understood as a basic human right to which everyone is entitled to have access.
- It is based on the principle that people take the decisions that affect them and that specialists should therefore provide support and assistance so that people can act on these decisions. Homeless people and their needs are at the centre of all the supportive treatment services provided.
- The thrust is towards normalization, rejecting housing ghettos or forms of housing where people in situations of social exclusion tend to congregate.
- Housing is the place of residence, privacy and security for each individual; if any type of treatment is required, it will stem from the resources and services to which all other citizens have access.
- The community (the block on which people live, the neighbourhood, etc.) is a window of opportunity for re-establishing relations with the surrounding areas and for building a social support network.

Many European and American cities are developing care programmes in the framework of the Housing First model, introduced in the U.S.A. in 1990. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of chronically homeless people fell 30% from 2005 to 2007, a reduction that has been linked with the introduction of the Housing First model.
Since 2011, the European Commission has been pioneering pilot projects as part of the Housing First Europe project in five European cities: Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Lisbon. All these initiatives have received outstanding support from their respective home countries.

Here at RAIS Fundación, we have created HÁBITAT, our own Housing First programme for the homeless, thus aligning ourselves with other European initiatives that are already proving successful. Guided by the principles of Housing First, we are making 38 residential facilities available in Malaga, Barcelona and Madrid, to be subject to a rigorous evaluation process that will enable us to lay the foundations for the widespread introduction of this model as of 2015. Our aim is to validate and show the added value of this model in our context and prove the effectiveness and efficiency it has demonstrated in numerous EU countries.

HÁBITAT mirrors one of our strongest commitments to
- The most severely excluded members of our society, who we want to continue serving.
- A new form of tackling homelessness, representing a radical shift in the approach taken thus far.
- Innovation, social mobilization and outcome measures, the axes of our action strategy.
- Fighting for people’s rights.
- Social transformation, which we want to be part and parcel of.
- Alliances and networking.
- Generating efficient and sustainable resources.

For more information about HÁBITAT, please contact us at: comunicacion@raisfundacion.org