My work: Creating permanent and affordable housing as a fundamental human right for homeless families across America.
This profile was prepared when Tanya Tull was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
In 1988, Tanya launched the “Housing First” Program at Beyond Shelter to address a new crisis in homelessness: a sharp rise in the number of homeless families with children. When families are in emergency shelters or transitional housing, they are in a state of crisis and trauma, lacking confidence and control in their lives, as well as a healthy community around them. Tanya believes families are best able to utilize support services and break out of cycles of housing instability and chronic poverty once they are situated in stable, permanent housing. As a result, after first addressing the crisis needs of families, “Housing First” places families in permanent housing and then provides longer-term support and intervention services.By defining the homeless experience as an actual state of trauma, Tanya is encouraging a shift in how society addresses homelessness. According to her view, permanent housing should not be seen as a “reward for good behavior” for families in shelter programs, but rather as a fundamental human right grounded in the belief that homeless people are no different than housed people but are experiencing a housing crisis and in need of assistance.Tanya’s model has helped over 4,300 families attain permanent housing in residential neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County and is the leading strategy for combating family homelessness in the United States today. Her more recent work, developing service-enriched communities and defining housing as a basic human right through joint advocacy work with leading organizations in the United States and internationally, is re-shaping the world’s understanding of homelessness and strategies used to combat the issue.