3 years ago

Where harm reduction meets housing first: Exploring alcohol's role in a project-based housing first setting

Housing first (HF) programmes provide low-barrier, nonabstinence-based, immediate, supportive and permanent housing to chronically homeless people who often have co-occurring substance-use and/or psychiatric disorders. Project-based HF programmes offer housing in the form of individual units within a larger housing project. Recent studies conducted at a specific project-based HF programme that serves chronically homeless individuals with alcohol problems found housing provision was associated with reduced publicly funded service utilisation, decreased alcohol use, and sizable cost offsets. No studies to date, however, have qualitatively explored the role of alcohol use in the lives of residents in project-based HF. Methods We collected data in a project-based HF setting via naturalistic observation of verbal exchanges between staff and residents, field notes taken during staff rounds, and audio recorded staff focus groups and resident interview sessions. Qualitative data were managed and coded using a constant comparative process consistent with grounded theory methodology. The goal of the analysis was to generate a conceptual/thematic description of alcohol's role in residents’ lives. Results Findings suggest it is important to take into account residents’ motivations for alcohol use, which may include perceived positive and negative consequences. Further, a harm reduction approach was reported to facilitate housing attainment and maintenance. Residents and staff reported that traditional, abstinence-based approaches are neither desirable nor effective for this specific population. Finally, elements of the moral model of alcohol dependence continue to pervade both residents’ views of themselves and the community's perceptions of them. Conclusions Findings suggest it is necessary to set aside traditional models of alcohol use and approaches to better understand, align with, and address this population's needs. In doing so, we might gain further insights into how to enhance the existing project-based HF approach by applying more tailored, alcohol-specific, harm reduction interventions.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0955395911001332

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