Housing First retains people in housing, even when they were not actively seeking it.

A study of housing retention among DESC housing residents who were chronically homeless and affected by long-term severe alcohol problems found that clients were both interested in housing and able to retain it over the two-year study period. Residents had not actively sought out this housing, but were found and offered the housing opportunity by DESC staff. Many of them reported that they did not believe they could have succeeded in abstinence-based housing, and continued alcohol use did not predict housing failure. See:

Housing Retention in Single-Site Housing First for Chronically Homeless Individuals with Severe Alcohol Problems – American Journal of Public Health (Volume 103 | Issue S2, December 2013)

Housing First for chronically homeless people is associated with decreased jail time.

A UW study examined criminal history as a predictor of housing retention and subsequent jail time for chronically homeless people housed in a DESC Housing First program. As with the other study, criminal history did not predict housing failure. This study also showed that prior criminal activity while homeless is predominantly minor, and that subsequent bookings into jail and days in jail decrease substantially. See:

Exposure to Project-based Housing First is Associated with Reduced Jail Time and Bookings – International Journal of Drug Policy (Volume 24 | Issue 4, July 2013)

Qualitative studies add to the understanding of the lives of chronically homeless people served in housing first programs.

Interviews with and close observation of chronically homeless people after housing acquisition yield important insights into motivations and past experiences of participants. University of Washington researchers collaborating with DESC explored issues relevant to a female subpopulation in one study. In another, a focus on perceived positive and negative effects of alcohol use were explored to gain a stronger basis for the development of more tailored harm reduction interventions. A third study documented the experiences of residents and staff living and working in a Housing First program, identifying strengths and challenges of these programs. See the following publications:

A House is Not a Home: A Qualitative Assessment of the Life Experiences of Alcoholic Homeless Women – Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions (10:158-179, 2010)

Where Harm Reduction Meets Housing First: Exploring Alcohol’s Role in a Project-based Housing First Setting – International Journal of Drug Policy (Volume 23 | Issue 2, March 2012)

Exploring Transitions Within a Project-based Housing First Setting: Qualitative Evaluation and Practice Implications – Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (Volume 23 | Issue 4, November 2012

Motivation to change is more important factor than treatment attendance in alcohol use decreases among DESC clients

A study in the journal Addictive Behaviors examined the underlying factors associated with reductions in drinking and alcohol-related problems among DESC clients. Motivation to change was consistently associated with improved alcohol outcomes, whereas treatment attendance was not. One implication is for more focus on enhancing client motivation to change rather than simply insisting on treatment attendance. See:

Motivation to change and treatment attendance as predictors of alcohol-use outcomes among project-based Housing First residents – Addictive Behaviors (Volume 37 | Issue 8 August 2012)

Homeless people with alcohol problems reduce drinking in housing allowing alcohol

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health documents decreases in alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among residents of DESC’s 1811 Eastlake program. The results provide a strong rebuttal to the “enabling” hypothesis, which held that providing alcohol-dependent people with housing where they were not prohibited from drinking would cause them to drink even more and experience more dire consequences as a result. See:

Project-Based Housing First for Chronically Homeless Individuals With Alcohol Problems: Within-Subjects Analyses of 2-Year Alcohol Trajectories – American Journal of Public Health. (Volume 102 | Issue 3, March 2012)