For the past ten years, Father Bill’s Place (FBP) in Quincy, Massachusetts, has moved steadily towards providing permanent housing with supportive services rather than emergency shelter as a solution to ending homelessness. According to John Yazwinski, executive director of FBP, the vision for the future is to be able to independently house every homeless person entering FBP within a short period of time instead of “housing” people in the shelter for prolonged periods. As such, sheltering homeless people in mass emergency shelters should be a picture of the past.
Yazwinski’s Housing First Model builds upon an approach of housing “chronically” homeless street dwellers with psychiatric disabilities. This “Housing First” model is a non-linear housing and service program that attempts to move the most disabled homeless people directly to housing, prior to treatment, using housing as the transforming element to support participation in treatment. This approach does not require sobriety or participation in long-term treatment programs like the traditional continuum of care approach. A comparison of this low demand housing approach with the traditional treatment model revealed that 88 percent of the Housing First participants remained in housing after a five year period as compared to 47 percent of those in the traditional treatment/housing model (Tsemberis & Eisenberg, 2000). Compared to the traditional homeless Continuum of Care (CoC) approach to housing, this approach also reduced public costs at a greater rate (Gulcur, Stefancic, Shinn, Tsemberis, & Fischer, 2003).
In May, 2005, ten mostly chronically homeless women moved from the shelter into the first Housing First project operated by FBP, the Claremont Street Residence. Claremont Street provides 12 single room occupancy units with shared kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities. Claremont Street residents receive supportive services to help them live independently, including onsite staff that connect them with resources, services, and employment opportunities. In November of the same year, a group of eight men moved into the Winter Street Residence. The Winter Street Residence provides single room occupancy housing for up to 19 men (although not all are former guests of Father Bill’s Place). By April, 2006, a total of 12 formerly homeless men had moved to Winter Street. This report focuses on these formerly homeless women and men.
Meschede, Tatjana, "Moving Here Saved My Life: The Experience of Formerly Chronically Homeless Women and Men in Quincy's Housing First Projects" (2006). Center for Social Policy Publications. 15.