Sam Tsemberis

1 minute read
By Ann Marie Oliva

In 1992, when Sam Tsemberis founded Pathways to Housing in New York City, people sleeping on the streets and experiencing intense traumas—such as deep poverty, domestic violence, or mental-health conditions—had to prove they were worthy of a roof over their heads before getting help. Sam threw that notion out the window. He listened to people experiencing homelessness, and found that safe and affordable housing was what they wanted first. Housing would provide the foundation needed to receive services and heal what they endured. His model, Housing First, has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people and is influencing policy in cities across the U.S. and the world—from Houston to Helsinki. By treating housing as a basic human right, Sam demonstrated that leading with humanity is the most effective path to ending homelessness.

Oliva is CEO of National Alliance to End Homelessness

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