In 1997 a visionary group of volunteers and service providers specializing in mental health and homelessness recognized a profound gap in supportive housing for the most vulnerable women of our city. As a response Open Arms Housing was incorporated in Washington DC to serve women experiencing chronic homelessness and affected by serious mental illness.
Providers saw a need for a facility and program that would offer low-barrier access to women who lived on the streets or in emergency shelters and were unable to comply with traditional mental health or substance use treatment settings. This low-demand approach has been called "Housing First". By Housing First, we mean that, while supportive services will be available on-site and off-site, acceptance of those services will not be a condition for receiving permanent housing.
Open Arms Housing’s overall goals are to create safe, stable housing, with support tailored to meet individual needs and promote housing stability using a Housing First and Harms Reduction approach.
"Homeless No More", the District's strategy for ending homelessness, firmly established Housing First as the keystone to ending homelessness in this city: "This plan moved the District toward the day when it can offer 'housing first' options to homeless people, even to those who face the most serious challenges to obtaining and keeping housing."
We envision the eradication of long-term homelessness for women in Washington, D.C. At OAH, every effort is made to produce a housing environment in which formerly homeless women will want to stay and thrive.