What Research Says About the Best Way to Spend Money Now to Solve Homelessness Long-Term
Randomized evaluations have shown the effectiveness of Housing First. For decades, most housing services required people to meet employment or sobriety requirements in order to be housed. Housing First programs do literally what they say: provide housing first, with no preconditions.
Several randomized evaluations tested Housing First programs and found that individuals in permanent supportive housing spend about half as much time unhoused or in the hospital than those not in the program. Policymakers in Utah then used this research to expand the evidence-based program. The state became a national model after it adopted a Housing First approach in 2005 and reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent by 2015.
There is still much to be learned about how to end homelessness, and rigorous randomized evaluations can help. First, further research can provide insights into how to improve programs that we know can work. For example, despite the success of vouchers, they are not a simple “golden ticket.” It is hard to get a voucher and to then find landlords that accept such vouchers, even when “source-of-income” discrimination is technically illegal. Low housing stock and discriminatory practices make finding housing arduous—if not impossible—for voucher-holders. We need further research on ways to increase landlord acceptance of vouchers.