“How’s that going to impact your housing?”
It is one of the most important questions we should repeatedly ask the people we support as they develop and operationalize their support plan.
Let’s say a head of a household declares they want to look for employment. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?”
Let’s say a middle aged single man declares he wants to seek out treatment for his addiction. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?”
Let’s say a woman is working to regain custody of her children that had been taken into care. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?”
I could go on. It is not, obviously, the only question to ask. But it is a question that is very important to ask whenever changes in life circumstance or context are afoot. Yes, people can and should realize many positive life changes once in housing. What we don’t want to have happen is for housing to become destabilized in the process. That is why the question is so important – it reinforces the importance of staying anchored in housing throughout the changes.
Look at employment again. Employment – whether full or part time – can have many positive impacts on life. It can also impact housing in many ways. It is potentially great for a person to have housing, but let us say it means their government benefits change. Budgeting is now in scope in a different way. Payment of rent is now in scope in a different way. Location of housing to the place of employment becomes a consideration. And so on. We have to be able to support people being employed AND housed; not sacrificing or losing housing as a result of employment.
Look at something like addiction treatment again. Stopping the use of alcohol or other drugs may be hugely beneficial depending on individual circumstances. Addiction treatment, however, can have lots of impact on housing. Is it in-patient or outpatient? What is the length of time being away if it is residential treatment? Is payment of rent still an option while away? Do government benefits change while accessing the treatment? How will personal social relationships change, potentially, through the efforts of seeking sobriety and how will that impact the social network that is currently influencing the man’s housing stability? And so on. If a person seeks treatment, we want them to achieve sobriety AND be housed; not sacrificing or losing housing as a result of accessing treatment.
Look at something like regaining custody of children. This may be of great benefit to the woman and the children from an emotional and social support perspective. That said, the size of the family unit impacts the number of bedrooms and size of unit. It impacts government benefits and budgeting. It may increase the need for parental supports. There are impacts with other systems that weren’t in place in the same way before like the education system or socio-recreational activities for the children or entire family unit. And so on. If a woman like this situation seeks custody of her children again (and let us assume for a moment it is a safe and appropriate thing to have happen), we want her to reunite with her children AND be housed; not sacrificing or losing housing as a result of the reunification.
A lot of really good intensive supports to people when in housing – especially those that have higher acuity – hinges upon teaching the art and skills of proactive problem solving. The more we get people thinking about how life decisions impact housing, the more that people can and will stay housed as they implement those life decisions. We can be the vehicle by which always applying the filter of “how do you think this will impact your housing?” becomes second-nature as people we support deliberate each life decision and its impacts.