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Friday, April 26, 2013

Housing and harm reduction: What is the role of harm reduction in addressing homelessness?

Homelessness and drug use often overlap and the harms of substance use are exacerbated by homelessness. Responding to the twin problems of homelessness and substance use is an important aspect of strategies to end homelessness.

The introduction and development of ten year plans to end homelessness in North America heralds a new era of systemic responses to homelessness. Central to many of these plans is the adoption of ‘Housing First’ as a policy response.

Housing First focuses directly on housing people regardless of current patterns of substance use. As such, harm reduction is a key principle of Housing First.

In this paper, we examine Housing First as an example of the integration of housing and harm reduction and then put forth a community level policy framework to further promote the integration of harm reduction as part of a response to homelessness.

Drawing on Rhodes’ risk environment framework and current evidence of Housing First and harm reduction, we describe four key policy areas for action: (1) social inclusion policies; (2) adequate and appropriate supply of housing; (3) on demand harm reduction services and supports and (4) systemic and organizational infrastructure.

We conclude by identifying areas for future research.

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