There is internationally recognized evidence that access to regular, scattered and integrated housing in the community is an effective, concrete response that not only ends homelessness but also creates access to healthcare, social inclusion and other basic social rights.

There is a wide variety of programs and policies focused on housing options for homeless persons, but the program with the most established evidence basis is Housing First.


Housing First enables homeless people with challenging support needs to access and maintain permanent housing. Access to housing with service support not only achieves housing stability for the long-term homeless. It also contributes to stabilize and reduce drug and alcohol use, and improves mental and physical health, and social integration.

“Housing First uses housing as a starting point rather than an end point out of homelessness. It uses housing as an instrument of reintegration rather than a result of a long reintegration process” – Frederik Spinnewijn. Director, FEANTSA.

The Housing First model was originally developed in the United States to resolve long-term homelessness, for people with mental health problems and substance abuse. Dr. Sam Tsemberis founded Pathways to Housing in New York City in 1992 based on the belief that housing is a human right. At Pathways, Tsemberis developed the Housing First model that provides immediate access to permanent supportive housing. Nowadays, Housing First is already working to eradicate homelessness in many countries around the world like the United States, Canada, Australia and most of the states in the European Union.

Some European states have already integrated Housing First in their national strategies against homelessness like Denmark, and some others like Portugal, France, Netherlands or Spain are testing it successfully.


The innovation of Housing First as a model comes from the reversal of the traditional ‘staircase’ model of homelessness services, which predominates in many European countries. The staircase model requires homeless persons to show evidence of being ‘housing ready’ before they are offered long-term stable accommodation, hindering the reversibility of the phenomenon.

Housing First has no housing “readiness” requirements. Housing First programs place homeless people directly into permanent housing. The Housing First model has proved that the vast majority of homeless people, including the very most vulnerable, can sustain a tenancy as long as appropriate support is offered.

“Housing First implicates that the person has immediate access to real housing. Not the shelter, not something shared, not transitional. A place of his/her own, permanent, furnished, that the person can have a sense of ownership about. The other part of the program is the support services, at a level of intensity prepared to meet the needs of the person” – Sam Tsemberis. Founder & CEO, Pathways to Housing First.