Sam Tsemberis is credited with radically reducing the homeless population by developing a new approach to house the large percentage of chronically homeless people who are mentally ill.
Over the years in reaching out to the homeless while working with street outreach teams and drop-in center programs, Dr. Tsemberis constantly encountered innumerable barriers in finding long-term housing options for this population. Housing programs for the homeless often required that people be sober, drug free and willing to start treatment. Rethinking this standard approach, Dr. Tsemberis devised a program called “Housing First” with the understanding that the priority should be to get individuals into a safe and stable home. He suggested that overcoming substance abuse and opening up to treatment for mental illness should follow, not precede, the right to housing.
In 1992, Dr. Tsemberis founded Pathways to Housing, a not-for-profit organization that has pioneered this new approach. Research-based and outcome-oriented, Pathways to Housing has been proven both more effective and significantly less expensive than traditional models. It is now being replicated around the country.
Dr. Tsemberis has been the principal investigator for several federally funded studies of homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. He has also published widely on the topic of homelessness among people with multiple disabilities.
Executive Director of Pathways to Housing, Dr. Tsemberis is also on the Department of Psychiatry faculty at the New York University Langone Medical Center.