In July 2008, Friendship Place received funding from the D.C. Department of Human Services to open a new housing program based on the "housing first" model, which offers housing to homeless people without preconditions; for example, they do not have to be clean and sober, nor do they have to accept treatment for any mental illnesses they may have.
Our Neighbors First program helps people move from the streets or shelters directly into apartments ― men and women whom the District has identified as highly vulnerable to injury or death because of severe mental or physical illnesses, addictions, or other disabilities. Once they are safely housed, our case managers work closely with them to rebuild their lives, connecting them with medical and psychiatric care, substance abuse treatment programs, and job training and employment opportunities; and helping them restore relationships with family and friends.
Neighbors First has been an unqualified success in helping the consumers make significant life changes. In a March 2009 survey, 94 percent of the program’s participants answered “yes” to the question, “Has your quality of life increased [since coming into the Neighbors First program]?”
“I love my job,” says program director Jill Carmichael. “There is nothing like empowering someone to change their life around. I’ve seen so many consumers go from being homeless to having hope again and engaging in society, whether it’s through employment, mental health or substance abuse services. We’ve started a weekly support group, and it’s great to see people interacting with new friends all working towards the same goal of rebuilding their lives.”
Originally, Neighbors First served 65 individuals, but because of the program's outstanding outcomes, the District has twice requested that we expand. The program is now helping 165 men and women rebuild their lives, an increase of 100 in just two years.
Friendship Place serves an additional 38 people in our other housing programs.