Housing First

Housing First. Rehousing. Chronically Homeless. What do these terms mean? We asked our staff to share about the people we are helping to regain housing, how our housing program operates and the long-term results of our work.

What is Housing First?

Catholic Services of Acadiana embraces a Housing First approach in addressing homelessness in Acadiana. Housing First emphasizes stable, permanent housing as a primary strategy for ending a persons’ experience of homelessness. We work to quickly connect individuals and families to permanent housing without barriers, such as sobriety, income, treatment or service participation requirements. Once housing is secured, intensive supportive services are offered to prevent them from returning to homelessness and improving their quality and stability of life.

This approach aligns with our value of the dignity of the human person, and belief that housing is a fundamental human right. We believe that all persons, deserve to have their basic needs met, with housing being one of the most basic human needs.

Using evidence based, nationally recognized best practices we have eliminated barriers to shelter and housing, created individualized plans for people experiencing homelessness, established relationships with landlords, and invested in our housing team’s capacity to assist people in regaining housing stability.

“Chronically homeless people are the individuals that are often perceived as wanting to be homeless, or choosing to be homeless, and
will always be homeless. In our experience, we have learned that no one truly desires to be homeless. We initiate conversations and form relationships with people experiencing homelessness with the ultimate goal of connecting them to stable housing, not matter how long it takes,” says Michelle Hinman, Director of Client Services. In the past two months, CSA has rehoused 16 individuals who have collectively been homeless for over 115 years and who on average are 53 years of age. She goes on to say, “Housing chronically homeless individuals is doing what has been deemed by many to be impossible.”

Plan, plan, plan. CSA’s staff plans rst to have a personal encounter with individuals experiencing prolonged homelessness in order to build a rapport and trust with them. Once trust is established, we ask permission to assess their needs and then include them in each step of the process moving forward.

“Many people don’t realize that the rst step to rehousing is skilled outreach. Outreach does not mean simply going out and meeting people, it means establishing a relationship with them or with the people closest to them. With this approach, we can strategize and create an opportunity to offer them housing together,” says Hinman. “I tell our staff, no matter how you have to get the message out, let them know that we’re here when they are ready. Many times, the skills that they have had to learn to survive and be successful at being homeless, are serving to keep them homeless. A lot of our work is helping them to unlearn certain skills so that they can live a full life in their new home.”

Sharing her recent experience working with someone who had been homeless for over 20 years and had been battling several medical issues on the streets, Housing Services Coordinator Debra Williams says, “We worked together as team, not just among our staff but with the police, landlords, doctors, and their existing support system. Eventually trust and cooperation developed, creating a window of opportunity for a face to face conversation about housing, and they accepted our offer.”

The immediate result is that someone who was homeless, is no longer homeless. They can now address their medical, physical and mental health issues from a safe and stable home environment. With advocacy and support from our staff, they aren’t facing those issues alone. Beyond that, attitudes, appearance and demeanor all change as Williams explains, “I think what has impressed me the most is the positivity and the gratitude people have shown after moving into their house. People who were once hardened, often feared, were now warm - inviting people over for meals and making future plans.” says Williams.

You can help too.

Homelessness in Acadiana is real but we are ending it by providing services to help people regain housing stability and offering supportive services in their home, a method that has been proven over and over in cities across the nation. You can be a part of this work by contributing monetarily or by donating supplies and household goods to our housing programs. If you’re interested in joining us in our mission in this way, call Casey at 337.235.4972 ext. 120 or by email at chollier@catholicservice.org.