Two of the top reasons that people become homeless are mental illness and alcohol abuse or other forms of substance abuse, and a new program called Housing First is taking steps to provide a solution. A recent study found that it is possible to reduce alcohol abuse for those with mental illness in the homeless population by providing these individuals with a safe place to live that has no preconditions attached. The Housing First approach does not place stipulations on a place to live, such as seeing mental health professionals or sobriety testing. Instead Housing First places a focus on getting the homeless individual into permanent housing that allows the individual to live independently. Support and additional services are provided as needed but the homeless individual does not have to follow any preconditions in order to have a safe place to call home.
The underlying ideal behind the Housing First initiative in order to fight alcohol abuse and mental illness among the homeless is that people will be able to move forward and will have a better life if they have stable housing and a more predictable living situation. The study involved 378 people who were all homeless, and who were all diagnosed with some form of mental illness. All of the study participants were from Toronto, Canada. Those who took part in the Housing First initiative saw a drop in alcohol abuse of more than 50%, and this decrease occurred in spite of the fact that the homeless were not forced to stay sober or to follow any other preconditions in order to avoid becoming homeless again.