What is the role of harm reduction in addressing homelessness? - Homeless Hub Research Summary Series

Homelessness and substance use often coexist. Lack of affordable housing, poverty, and current drug policies create an environment in which risks of substance use are increased. Ensuring that people have housing regardless of substance use can reduce these risks. Harm reduction approaches are an important part of strategies to end homelessness. A cornerstone of many comprehensive strategies to end homelessness is a Housing First philosophy and programs. Housing First programs focus on prioritizing placement of people into housing and providing access to services as desired. Housing first programs do not require sobriety or treatment attendance in order to obtain housing. Housing First may include the use of: market rental units in which supports follow the client; or provision of supportive housing where supports are available onsite. Benefits of Housing First include increased housing stability, improved health and well-being, decreased hospitalizations and in one study, reduced alcohol consumption and policing costs for those with severe alcohol dependency. Harm reduction is a key principle of Housing First programs. Existing studies have shown the benefits of harm reduction strategies such as needle exchange, methadone maintenance, and supervised injection services to prevent the harms of substance use and for reaching and linking those in need of housing and social supports. Peer involvement (social inclusion) is an important principle of both Housing First and harm reduction approaches.

Housing and harm reduction: What is the role of harm reduction in addressing homelessness? was published in Journal of International Journal of Drug Policy, 24(4):284–290, 2013

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