Strategies for Sustaining Fidelity: A Multi-state Qualitative Analysis in Housing First Programs

Mimi Choy-Brown, Emmy Tiderington, Bikki Tran Smith, Deborah K. Padgett, Ana Stefancic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about long-term fidelity of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) under changing conditions. This study examines how staff at ‘mature’ (eight or more years in operation) Housing First (HF) programs strategize to sustain EBI fit in different geographic areas in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeastern United States. Six focus groups (FGs) at three purposively selected HF programs were conducted with separate FGs for case managers and supervisors at each site. FG discussions elicited participants’ service approaches and strategies in addressing fidelity amidst ongoing changes affecting each program. Thematic content analysis of FG transcripts was conducted using the five HF fidelity domains (housing choice/structure, separation of housing and services, service philosophy, service array, and program structure) as a priori themes with inductive content analyses conducted on data in each theme. Strategies for rigor were employed. Case managers (N = 17) and supervisors (N = 16) were predominantly white (76%) and female (60%). Across the themes, challenges included lack of affordable housing and choice, funders’ restrictions and practice ‘drift.’ Strategies included community engagement and hiring, strong leadership and ‘bending the rules.’ There were no differences across sites. Later-stage implementation challenges show the need for continued vigilance in fidelity to EBIs. Among the strategies used to address fidelity in this study, the pursuit of pro-active community engagement to attract knowledgeable staff as well as increase local buy-in was considered pivotal at all three sites. These findings underscore the need to attend to the external setting as well as to internal program operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalAdministration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Fidelity
  • Housing first
  • Qualitative research
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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