Housing First the conversation: discourse, policy and the limits of the possible

Researchers, policy-makers, and political leaders in Canada and the US are championing the ‘Housing First’ (HF) intervention as a solution to homelessness. HF supplies people experiencing both homelessness and challenges around mental health with housing and a range of supports that can include case-coordination, psychiatry, and primary care. While HF’s impact on the housing status of individual participants has received considerable scientific and public consideration, less attention has been paid to its effects on societal conversations related to housing, public services, and social justice. We explore some of the impacts, not of HF the intervention, but of HF the conversation – the way public documents related to HF interact with broader discourses. Specifically, we examine the potential for this conversation to undermine the ultimate goal of ending homelessness in Canada. We conclude that positioning program interventions – no matter how important in the current context – as singular solutions to issues like homelessness or preventable chronic disease risks obscuring distal causes and marginalizing systemic responses.

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Critical Public Health