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Housing First

Date published: February 20, 2020

2020 marks nearly four decades of HOW creating opportunities and rebuilding lives. Back in 1983 when we first began, we worked with eight clients. In 2019, we served over 1,300 individuals.


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



Because it works.  

The Housing First approach prioritizes just that – housing first. Losing your home is the beginning of a slow spiral downward. The most effective intervention to stop that spiral is getting housed. 

The Housing First model provides permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness and pairs it with services to help support long-term stability. Housing First pivots from alternate housing models by assuming everyone is prepared for housing, instead of conditioning housing on “readiness”. It responds to people’s most basic need: to create a stable foundation from which other issues, including ones that may have led to instability, can be addressed. Housing First creates a model that empowers individuals and fights the structural housing inequity present across the nation.    

Decades of research have established Housing First as an evidence–based and effective approach to ending homelessness. It is also the most cost-efficient solution. A 2017 research brief by the National Alliance to End Homelessness noted that the average cost to taxpayers is $35,578 when a person experiences chronic homelessness. These costs are reduced by 49.5% when that individual is placed in supportive housing. 

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 90% of HOW clients maintain stable housing while housed in our program, and over 85% 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 active and engaged members of our communities. And I believe this is exactly why Housing First remains the gold standard for addressing homelessness.  

Britt Shawver



Housing Opportunities for Women

1607 W Howard St.

Third Floor

Chicago, IL 60626


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