The Impact of Housing First on Criminal Justice Outcomes among Homeless People with Mental Illness: A Systematic Review [2019]

Housing First is increasingly put forward as an important component of a pragmatic plan to end homelessness. The literature evaluating the impact of Housing First on criminal justice involvement has not yet been systematically examined. The objective of this systematic review is to examine the impact of Housing First on criminal justice outcomes among homeless people with mental illness.

Five electronic databases (PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science) were searched up until July 2018 for randomised and nonrandomised studies of Housing First among homeless people with a serious mental disorder.

Five studies were included for a total of 7128 participants. Two studies from a randomised controlled trial found no effect of Housing First on arrests compared to treatment as usual. Other studies compared Housing First to other programs or compared configurations of HF and found reductions in criminal justice involvement among Housing First participants.

This systematic review suggests that Housing First, on average, has little impact on criminal justice involvement. Community services such as Housing First are potentially an important setting to put in place strategies to reduce criminal justice involvement. However, forensic mental health approaches such as risk assessment and management strategies and interventions may need to be integrated into existing services to better address potential underlying individual criminogenic risk factors. Further outcome assessment studies would be necessary.

Marichelle C. Leclair, BA, Félicia Deveaux, LLB, Laurence Roy, PhD, Marie-Hélène Goulet, PhD, Eric A. Latimer, PhD, Anne G. Crocker, PhD
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, January 6, 2019