A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of Housing First in a small Canadian City [2019]

The paper presents two-year findings from a study investigating the effectiveness of Housing First (HF) with assertive community treatment (ACT) in helping individuals with serious mental illness, who are homeless or precariously housed and living in a small city, to become stably housed.

The research design was a parallel group non-blinded RCT with participants randomly assigned after the baseline interview to receive HF with ACT (N = 100) or treatment as usual (TAU; N = 101). Participants were interviewed every 3 months over 21/24 months to investigate changes on a range of housing and psychosocial outcomes. The primary outcomes were housing stability (as defined by a joint function of number of days housed and number of moves) and improvement in community functioning. Secondary predicted outcomes were improvements in self-rated physical and mental health status, substance use problems, quality of life, community integration, and recovery.

An intent-to-treat analysis was conducted. Compared to TAU participants, HF participants who entered housing did so more quickly (23.30 versus 88.25 days, d = 1.02, 95% CI [0.50–1.53], p < 0.001), spent a greater proportion of time stably housed (Z = 5.30, p < 0.001, OR = 3.12, 95% CI [1.96–4.27]), and rated the quality of their housing more positively (Z = 4.59, p < 0.001, d = 0.43, 95% CI [0.25–0.62]). HF participants were also more likely to be housed continually in the final 6 months (i.e., 79.57% vs. 55.47%), χ2 (2, n = 170) = 11.46, p = .003, Cramer’s V = 0.26, 95% CI [0.14–0.42]). HF participants showed greater gains in quality of life, (Z = 3.83, p < 0.001, ASMD = 0.50, 95% CI [0.24–0.75]), psychological integration (Z = 12.89, p < 0.001, pooled ASMD = 0.91, 95% CI [0.77–1.05]), and perceived recovery (Z = 2.26, p = 0.03, ASMD = 0.39, 95% CI [0.05–0.74]) than TAU participants.

The study indicates that HF ends homelessness significantly more rapidly than TAU for a majority of individuals with serious mental illness who have a history of homelessness and live in a small city. In addition, compared to TAU, HF produces psychosocial benefits for its recipients that include an enhanced quality of life, a greater sense of belonging in the community, and greater improvements in perceived recovery from mental illness.

Tim Aubry, Jimmy Bourque, Paula Goering, Susan Crouse, Scott Veldhuizen, Stefanie LeBlanc, Rebecca Cherner, Paul-Émile Bourque, Sarah Pakzad & Claudette Bradshaw
BMC Public Health, volume 19, Article number: 1154 (2019)