Policy shift or program drift? Implementing Housing First in Australia

INTRODUCTION Providing secure, sustainable housing options for people experiencing chronic homelessness has posed an enduring challenge for policy-makers and practitioners alike. While Australian homelessness responses are largely crisis based, there are long standing debates about the best means of ending long-term homelessness altogether. These debates centre on the nature of the housing required, the form of support services that people need to exit homelessness permanently and the extent to which support should precede or follow the provision of housing. An approach that is dominating contemporary Australian homelessness policy discourse and service practice is Housing First. The Housing First approach is based on the idea that a homeless individual’s first and primary need is to obtain stable, permanent housing. It is only once stable housing is obtained that other more enduring issues can be appropriately addressed.