Recap of Homelessness and Housing First Webinar

More than 11,000 people registered for the Homelessness and Housing First webinar on May 15 hosted by NLIHC, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The webinar, “Housing First and Faith-Based Organizations,” examined how faith-based organizations play a vital role in local homelessness response systems by establishing and operating rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing programs consistent with Housing First. The panelists emphasized that Housing First and faith-based traditions are not incompatible; in fact, Housing First principles – such as the belief in the dignity and autonomy of the individual person and the idea that all people deserve to have their basic needs met – are important tenets of their faith.

Dr. Bambie Hayes-Brown – president and CEO of Georgia Advancing Communities Together (Georgia ACT) and a member of NLIHC’s Board of Directors – moderated the webinar. In her opening remarks, Dr. Hayes-Brown shared that she is a person with lived experience of housing insecurity, a former public housing resident, and a licensed and ordained minister.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) – ranking member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance – explained how, having served as pastor of one of Kansas City’s largest churches for more than 38 years, he has witnessed the unique and critical role that faith-based groups play in addressing homelessness. “Housing provides every person with a sense of safety and a place to call their own, giving them purpose and great opportunity to fulfill their potential,” stated Rep. Cleaver. “As someone who spent their formative years in a shack and then in public housing, I understand completely how vital it is for housing programs to reach those most in need, and to do so with compassion, understanding, and in a way that puts the individual’s safety and security first.”

Kim Boudreaux, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of Acadiana in Lafayette, Louisiana, discussed how her organization discontinued their transitional housing programs in favor of Housing First after seeing how the approach reduced homelessness in her community. She explained that as a faith-based organization, Catholic Charities of Acadiana recognizes the inherent dignity of the human person and works to meet individuals’ basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, sleep, and safety before discussing other goals. During the panel discussion, Kim spoke about the importance of sheltering people according to the gender they identify with, noting that doing so is “the most respectful and dignified way of offering shelter.”

Jesse Rabinowitz, senior manager for policy and advocacy at Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, DC., described how his organization – which has been serving people experiencing homelessness for many years – witnessed firsthand that high barrier, “housing last” programs are not effective. He discussed how DC is using Housing First to end homelessness, highlighting that between 95% and 97% of residents in permanent supportive housing stay housed after the first year. Additionally, Jesse spoke to the importance of engaging faith leaders in campaigns advocating for increased housing and homelessness funding.

Bonnie Harper, a HUD grant housing specialist with Partners Health Management in North Carolina, discussed her role managing the permanent supportive housing grant for her organization. She spoke about how she partners with faith-based organizations to connect individuals to housing and voluntary wraparound services, highlighting the vital role that Housing First plays in addressing homelessness. Bonnie emphasized that many faiths, including her own, teach the importance of meeting individuals where they are and walking alongside of them without condemnation or judgment. 

During the moderated panel discussion, the panelists addressed how their organizations meet the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness, including LGBTQ people and individuals with substance use challenges. They highlighted how Housing First has reduced homelessness in their communities. The panelists emphasized that faith-based communities support Housing First and have a key role to play in pushing back against harmful narratives that the model is ineffective.

Steve Berg, chief policy officer at NAEH, wrapped up the call by providing an update from Capitol Hill and sharing how advocates can take action and urge their members of Congress to increase funding for homelessness programs in FY24.

We have uploaded a recording of the call, as well as the presentation slides.

Did you miss the previous webinars on homelessness and Housing First? Check out the webinar recaps, including links to the recordings and presentation slides.

The next webinar will be held on Monday, June 12 from 2:30 to 4:00 pm ET. Register for the series at:

Read more about Housing First at and on page 8-52 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocates’ Guide.