The Housing First Model is an evidence-based practice that recognizes how difficult it is to address health, employment, and other challenges without addressing the basic need and human right of stable housing.
“Stable housing is life-changing. People are able to seek employment and education opportunities, reconnect with family and friends, and rebuild social networks – all essential for whole-person health and wellbeing,” explains Amber Michel, Guild’s Director of Housing Services.
Connecting the Community to Care
Guild provides permanent and short-term supportive housing services for people experiencing chronic and long-term homelessness, those who have had difficulty maintaining housing, and those struggling with diagnosed mental illness. We help each person find stable, affordable housing where they want to live and continue to support them so they can remain in their residence, engage in their community, and reach their broader goals.
Using the Housing First model, we consider that every individual has different needs. Because stability and independence can mean other things to different people, we prioritize our clients’ unique desires when connecting them to housing, so they may better achieve their goals.
How We Do This
Guild proactively reaches out to people experiencing homelessness by engaging with individuals in public spaces such as libraries, coffee shops, community centers, parks, and encampments. We also work with individuals leaving the hospital after treatment for a mental health crisis and have nowhere to go. Partners such as treatment programs, shelters, food shelves, business owners, and faith communities refer individuals to our outreach services.
Our housing teams build trust with individuals by meeting them “where they are at,” allowing each person to move at their own pace toward stable housing. For example, an individual living in a homeless encampment may have a supportive community around them that they do not wish to leave or may feel ashamed due to the stigma of a mental illness like schizophrenia.
We try to ease the upcoming change into stable housing by first addressing immediate requests, like the need for a winter coat, and fostering a sense of safety with each person, taking the time to build rapport. By placing power with the individual, they are more likely to find and keep stable housing and so much more.
Of the 450+ adults who received Guild’s Housing Services in 2021, 79 percent obtained and maintained safe and affordable housing during the year. Hear from Guild Housing Services team members on how they are addressing housing needs in Minnesota by watching the video below.
Affordable Housing for All
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 8 million of the lowest-income renters nationwide pay at least half of their income on rent, leaving them without the resources they need to make ends meet. In Minnesota, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,165. To afford this level of rent and utilities without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $3,885 monthly or $22.41 per hour.
“The severe lack of truly affordable housing and funding that helps people obtain it can be solved, but we must prioritize it,” says Michel. Short-term grants almost entirely fund Guild’s Housing Services. According to Amber, that makes it hard to do long-term planning since a grant may not continue from one year to the next.
With government programs critically underfunded, there isn’t enough rental assistance to meet the need. “Rental assistance is one of the most impactful investments we [as a society] can make to help people become and remain stably housed,” said Amber.
How to Help
You can help advocate for affordable housing with Guild by researching what your elected officials are doing to ensure affordable housing in your community. Tell your legislators that affordable housing and rental assistance matter to you. Read about the 2023 policy recommendations Guild and other mental health organizations have proposed in our article, Securing a Safe Place to Stay for All Minnesotans.
You can also donate today. Together, as a community, we can fight homelessness.