new blog - 1.27.20  

  Housing First - An Approach to   Homelessness that Works 

A Model of Compassion and Efficacy - January 27, 2020

With the start of 2020, Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW) begins its 37th year as a nonprofit. In our first year of operation HOW worked with eight clients. In 2019, our organization served over 1,300 individuals.

Over the years, HOW experienced tremendous growth. We now serve clients of all genders across Chicagoland, own and operate four buildings, provide permanent supportive and affordable housing, and offer extensive support services that include individual case management. While so much has changed during the last four decades, one thing has not—our commitment to the Housing First model.   


Because it works.  

The Housing First approach prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, pairing it with services to help people achieve long-term stability and their goals(1). By not making housing exclusionary or dependent on selective factors, this method first addresses people’s most basic needs to create a stable foundation before addressing secondary priorities. Housing First blends compassion and choice to create a model that empowers individuals and fights the rampant housing inequity present across the nation.    

Beyond its merits as a humane method, Housing First is also the most “thoroughly established example of an evidence-based approach to ending homelessness,” (2) and is known for its proven effectiveness and cost-efficiency. According to United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, this method reduces homelessness, significantly decreases the use of crisis services (hospitals, jails, shelters…etc.), mitigates the harmful health effects of not having a home, and lowers criminal justice costs(3).


HOW was among the first agencies in the nation to implement Housing First and has decades of our own data to support the efficacy of this model. Consistently over 95% of HOW clients maintain stable housing while with us, and over 90% remain stably housed after they leave. We know first-hand that once individuals and families find housing, they have the stability they need to overcome obstacles, rebuild their lives, and become self-sufficient, proud members of our communities. And I believe this is exactly why Housing First remains the gold standard for addressing homelessness. Because it is centered on the idea that every individual has something to contribute, and that through respect we can unlock their potential and all benefit as a result.  

Britt Shawver


[1] National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Rapid Re-Housing Fact Sheet: Housing First,” (April 2016)

[2] Berg, Steve, “The CoC Program NOFA is Here.” National Alliance to End Homelessness (blog). July 9, 2019. Accessed January 10, 2019.

[3] United State Interagency Countil on Homelessness, “The Evidence Behind Approaches that Drive an End to Homelessness” (December 2017)

[4] Delaney, Arthur. “How A Traveling Consultant Helps America Hide The Homeless.” HuffPost, December 6, 2017.


Housing Opportunities for Women

1607 W Howard St.

Third Floor

Chicago, IL 60626


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