People who are homeless in the Arlington, Virginia, area can turn to the Homeless Services Center at the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network for the health and support services that they cannot easily access. Medical care, food, shelter, counseling and job training are all available to people who need assistance.

Such wraparound services are vital to people who are homeless, but the “housing first” model is at the heart of the organization’s mission.

Housing first is based on the premise that housing is necessary for health, security and wellness, and that people need not meet a long list of prerequisites to access permanent housing. While some programs require people to enter treatment programs for addiction or mental health or be employed before they are housed, housing first posits that with the right services and support, such issues can be better addressed after housing is secured.

“If you really want to end homelessness, you have to embrace housing first,” Kathleen Sibert, MBA, president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, told The Nation’s Health.

Once “you get someone into housing…you can work on all the other issues, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s substance abuse, whether it’s not being able to hold onto a job,” she said.

Continue reading this story from the February/March 2018 issue of The Nation's Health.