The curious case of Housing First: The limits of evidence based policy

Victoria Stanhope, Kerry Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence Based Policy has been articulated and practiced in Europe, particularly under the 'New Labour' policies of the former Labour government in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the impact of research on policy has been inconsistent due to differing relationships between researchers and policy makers. This paper gives an overview of evidence based policy and presents critiques based on its reliance on positivist methods and technical approach to policy making. Using these critiques as a framework, the paper discusses the case of Housing First, a policy adopted by the Bush Administration in order to address the problem of chronic homelessness. The case is an example of research driven policy making but also resulted in a progressive policy being promoted by a conservative administration. In discussing the case, the paper elaborates on the relationship between evidence and policy, arguing that evidence based policy fails to integrate evidence and values into policy deliberations. The paper concludes with alternative models of policy decision making and their implications for research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-282
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Evidence based practice
  • Social welfare policy
  • Supported housing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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