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30 Mar

Housing First: An Ecological Approach to Promoting Community Integration

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Ornelas, J., Martins, P., Zilhão, M.T. and Duarte, T. (2014) in European Journal of Homelessness (8.1), 29-56

 

This article present the findings from an evaluation which examined the impacts of a Housing First program on participants’ community integration. Using an ecological approach, the programme Casas Primeiro provides individualised and scattered apartments in mainstream neighbourhoods to homeless people with severe mental illness. The programme seeks to link participants to community resources, to facilitate neighbourhood relationships and to support participants’ projects and activities in the community that could lead to higher levels of social participation. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to determine whether the acquisition of stable and independent housing is associated with improvements in participants’ community integration. The research also sought to explore the degree to which the project users were participating in community activities, the nature of interaction with other neighbours and whether they feel a sense of belonging to their community. In all, 45 participants were interviewed. The results of the study highlight the possibilities that a Housing First approach could offer in promoting community integration. After being housed, participants reported that they began to use local resources and to participate in community activities and they developed a sense of belonging within their neighbourhoods.