Study: Housing First is a Success in Denver

Results from five years of Denver's Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative show that people and communities benefit from a 'Housing First' approach to homelessness.

July 22, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Denver, Colorado

Brett VA / Flickr

People experiencing homelessness are often "trapped in a homelessness-jail cycle—rotating in and out of jail, detoxification centers, and emergency health care. This cycle doesn’t help people access the assistance they need to find stability, and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers." The 'Housing First' concept seeks to change that–and seems to be succeeding, as research from The Urban Institute, with partners from The Evaluation Center at the University of Colorado Denver, shows. "Results from the five-year Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative (Denver SIB) show how both people and public budgets benefit when communities take this proactive approach."

"Housing First programs don’t require participants to meet any preconditions, and they are built on the idea that secure, affordable, and permanent housing must be available before people can work on other challenges, such as mental health or substance use disorders." The rigorous study "used a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for determining a program’s impact, that included 724 people: 363 people were in the treatment group (referred to the supportive housing program) and 361 people were in the control group (receiving services as usual in the community)." Its results show "that supportive housing, through a Housing First approach, not only ends chronic homelessness and helps people find stability, but also reduces jail days and lowers the public costs of the homelessness-jail cycle."

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