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25 Mar

The Case for Housing First in the European Union: A Critical Evaluation of Concerns about Effectiveness


Pleace, N. and Bretherton, J. (2013) in Journal of Homelessness, 7(2)


Housing First is now central to strategic responses to homelessness across much of the North of the European Union and is also being piloted in other member states. Concerns exist that a lack of ‘fidelity’, i.e. model drift away from the original New York Pathways to Housing approach may undermine the effectiveness of European ‘Housing First’ services. There are also some concerns that Housing First is being ‘sold’ to policymakers via a selective use of evidence that makes it appear more effective than is actually the case. This article suggests a typology of Housing First services as a framework within which to test concerns about fidelity and the strength of the evidence base.

The article concludes that services that follow the broad operational principles of a Housing First approach are highly effective in a range of national contexts. While there are some gaps in evidence, particularly in relation to single-site models of Housing First, very high fidelity to the original Pathways to Housing approach does not appear to be necessary to end chronic homelessness at high rates. Equally, while there are some other limitations in the evidence base for Housing First that should be addressed, centred on what happens to chronically homeless people following re-housing, research and policy attention should also focus on the potential of the Housing First philosophy to significantly reduce chronic homelessness across the European Union.