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Opioids and Homelessness: Study Identifies Strategies For Combatting Both

Rockville, Md.  –  Housing is vital to well-being, which makes addressing the link between opioid use disorder (OUD) and homelessness all the more important. To identify housing solutions that support recovery from OUD, Abt conducted the first literature review on the subject, as well as an environmental scan and interviews with experts and providers in four communities as part of the Opioid Use Disorder, Housing Instability and Housing Options for Recovery project. Created for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the project describes housing models available for individuals with OUD who experience housing instability or homelessness. Abt’s research identified several promising strategies.


  1. The Housing First model emphasizes immediate access to housing with intensive supports and case management—without the preconditions of sobriety or participation in supportive services. If these services are integrated or coordinated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, the model shows promise. MAT is a well-documented treatment for OUD, and people without stable housing are less able to engage in MAT.  Individuals served through the Housing First Model are more likely than those in other programs to continue taking MAT medications as prescribed—for at least three years. They’re also less likely to misuse substances compared to clients in programs that require SUD treatment.  
  2. The expert respondents in this study mentioned that, while co-location of services such as MAT and health care is ideal, housing programs with closely coordinated off-site services can also work well.
  3. Experts also stressed that self-determination and individual choice of housing model and treatment are central to recovery.  

“While there’s still much to learn, there’s a lot we can do now to help house those with OUD,” said Abt researcher Brandy Wyant. “Our research finds that housing options supported by choice, empathy and conditions that enable MAT can encourage healthier behaviors and stabilize housing.”

Read the review.

About Abt Global
Abt Global is an engine for social impact, dedicated to moving people from vulnerability to security.  Harnessing the power of data and our experts’ insights, we provide research, consulting and technical services globally in the areas of health, environmental and social policy, technology and international development.

Eric Tischler
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