Housing First and the Strength-Based Approach to Ending Homelessness

The strength-based approach to ending homelessness

Author Patrick Buhay is the Rapid Rehousing Program Manager at Community Rebuilders. Founded in 1993, the non-profit agency, is dedicated to ending homelessness and creating safe, affordable housing opportunities in Kent County, Michigan.

The strengths-based approach is exactly what it sounds like. We “approach” participants’ “strengths” and “base” the housing process and road to long-term housing stability around them. Our perspective is that an individual’s strengths will get him or her through the toughest situations. The strengths I often identify in the families I work with are resiliency, determination, and resolve. There are many more, of course, but I’m not writing a book.


Housing First is the model we use with all our participants across all programs. This model impacts families in the utmost positive way. You can tell that such a relief is lifted off the participant’s shoulders when you say, “Let’s get you housed first! Everything will come easier once you have a roof over you and your family’s heads.”

Of the many households we have served in 2015, more than 850 children have gone from an episode of homelessness to having a home to call their own.

When interviewing a previous participant’s child, I asked her, “What’s the best thing about having a new home?” She responded, “I don’t have to tell kids at school I live in the shelter anymore.”

The biggest impact families have identified in working with Keys First is being in their own, private residency, instead of having to cram their family of five into a small room at the shelter. Families find that they are able to work on other things, such as employment and healthcare, to improve their situation now that the weight of being homeless had been lifted.