Historically, Housing First has been used to support single individuals living in their own studio or one bedroom apartments. The model wasn’t developed to support couples or roommates, and as a result the services we have provided for the last fifteen years have been focused on individuals living alone.
However, there are many ways for people experiencing homelessness to find stability. Some, including those we serve at Pathways, thrive when they have a safe space all to themselves. Others thrive when they have a built-in support system, like the presence of roommates. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable one-bedroom apartments for our participants.
At the request of the City of Philadelphia, Pathways will be developing 10 Shared Housing Apartments over the next two years, which will ultimately serve an additional 30 participants. Each apartment will have three bedrooms, and the initial set of participants will be moving into their new shared apartment as they exit other housing or treatment programs. Adding this Shared Housing option will allow us be more flexible in the future, while also helping us to serve individuals who otherwise wouldn‘t thrive in the traditional Housing First model.
Robert was the first participant to move into a shared apartment through this program. He spoke to our Board recently about his experience moving into a new home with Pathways. Robert is 65 and a chef, a father of two grown children. He had previously shared a home with his family and was familiar with how quickly things can turn upside down when using substances. A chance encounter led him to joining a treatment program, and from there he got referred to Pathways.
With our shared housing program, the members of the units make the house rules. The house rules will vary by house, depending on who's living there. Robert and his roommates have established their own roles in their apartment. Robert is in charge of cooking, and his roommate cleans the pots in return. They all agreed who would take which of the three bedrooms. Overall, Robert emphasized that he’s happy in his new home and enjoying having this opportunity to remain in close contact with those he met in recovery through the shared housing program.