"No Place to Lay His Head:" An Analysis of Housing First and its Efficacy in Three American Cities




Coker, Layton

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United States homelessness policy in the twenty-first century has almost exclusively adhered to “Housing First,” a low-demand approach that prioritizes the provision of permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, regardless of the individual’s employment status, criminal history, or sobriety. The underlying assumption of Housing First is that the above issues, and more, cannot be solved if an individual does not first have the basic need of housing met. However, the results have been drastically unequal; some American cities have seen a near elimination of homelessness, while other cities’ homeless populations continue to grow. This thesis seeks to discover the sources of the disparities between successful and less successful implementations of Housing First policies by examining three American cities: Salt Lake City, Utah; San Francisco, California; and Waco, Texas. Through data-driven empirical research as well as personal interviews, I discover that the reasons for Housing First policy failures are manifold but, often, predictable. Ultimately, I conclude, by analyzing and comparing these three case studies, that the three greatest determining factors for Housing First success are a) charitable giving from nongovernmental entities, b) availability of affordable housing, and c) interagency communication and cooperation.