For the homeless, cities are discovering Housing First – It is humane; it is smart; and it works

Housing FirstBenches were redesigned with armrests or uneven surfaces to prevent reclining; low border walls had fencing or planters along their surfaces to prevent sitting. Use of security fencing, razor wire, and “no trespassing” signs went up as did security cameras and guard services. A social media storm erupted in June 2014 when a luxury apartment building and nearby grocery chain in London installed metal spikes on the surfaces of doorways and entrances to discourage “anti-social behavior.” After petitions and online protests, the spikes were removed.
Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives


People don’t like to think about the problems faced by homeless people. But, there are homeless people among us.

Today, I will present my synopsis of a remarkable book: Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives by Deborah Padgett, Benjamin Henwood, and Sam Tsemberis. The event is at the Dallas Public Library, and is sponsored by the Library, CitySquare, and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. (the details about the event are here).

The book Housing First recounts the remarkable story of Million Dollar Murray, a beloved homeless man, Murray Barr, from Nevada (now deceased). It turns out that having a chronically homeless person in your community is actually quite expensive for the community. In the Malcolm Galdwell article, Million Dollar Murray, there is this simple, breathtaking line:

“It cost us one million dollars not do do something about Murray.”

But, there seems to be such great resistance to the obvious solution – put a homeless person into a house/a home of his/her own. The book Housing First is about that plan. It has now been implemented in enough cities that the jury is pretty much in. It works. It actually, truly works!

It is more humane.
It is more cost effective.

In other words, it is the right thing, and the smart thing, to do.

I will post in a day or two with my lessons and takeaways from this book. But, for those who care about issues of poverty, in the specific issue of homelessness, my “read these first” book list is down to two:

Housing First
Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

Evicted(Read my blog post with my lessons and takeaways from Evicted, here: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond – My Lessons and Takeaways).

I encourage you to carve out some time to read one or both of these important books.

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