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'Housing First' Initiatives Gaining Momentum In Iowa

Eric Garcetti
A "Housing First" philosophy is the idea that access to housing is a human right.

Providing permanent, stable housing without requirements such as sobriety or employment has become a growing priority for organizations working with individuals struggling with addiction. This philosophy, known broadly as "housing first" functions on the idea that housing is a human right, and it's growing in popularity here in Iowa. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with housing and harm reduction experts to get a better idea of how housing first projects can support Iowa's addiction community.

Sarah Ziegenhorn, Founder and Executive Director of the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition identifies stable, accesible housing as a fundemental need, regardless if an individual is actively using drugs. 

"It's important to give people an opportunity to be supported," Ziegnhorn says. "We find that when people receive support their substance use is more likely to decrease than conversely, if their support is removed."

Anawim Housing in Des Moines is one of several organizations implementing housing first practices in Iowa. Director of Programs and Services for Anawim Housing, Cynthia Latcham, says the organization sees an 87% retention rate for tenants renting in housing first modeled properties, and believes the impact will only continue to grow as more landlords open themselves up to housing tenants modeled under the housing first philosophy.

"Having landlords that are willing to work with our program and accept our kind of housing is crucial," Latcham says.


  • Sarah Ziegenhorn, Founder and Executive Director of the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition
  • Cynthia Latcham, Director of Programs and Services at Anawim Housing in Des Moines
  • Mark Serrtterh, Associate Executive Director of Shelter House in Iowa City
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa