Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rehabilitation Counseling

First Advisor

Dr. Roy K. Chen

Second Advisor

Dr. Veronica Umeasiegbu

Third Advisor

Dr. Roberto González Valles


Since the 1980s, the federal government has developed strategies to eradicate homelessness in the US and its territories. The introduction of evidence-based practices like the Housing First Model helped decrease the number of people living homeless. Still, it continues to be a public health problem, especially among chronically homeless individuals, defined broadly as people with disabilities and substance abuse problems experiencing homelessness. Rehabilitation counselors are professionals specialized in serving individuals with disabilities. However, their role in programs identified as Housing First was unclear.

Thus, the study aimed to identify service providers' views, opinions, knowledge, and experiences about the role of rehabilitation counselors, the chronic homeless population, and the implementation process of the Pathways Housing First model in Puerto Rico. The process included two different data collection strategies: in-depth interviews to explore the experiences of key informants and a review of documents depicting the procedures and job descriptions related to the model. The sample included coordinators, administrators, clinical and case managers from four permanent housing programs at the two Continuum of Care systems on the island. The results were compared with additional information gathered from different sources to identify similarities. Results showed rehabilitation counselors were unknown to most service providers, who were not aware of their professional skills and capabilities. Furthermore, in many instances, the staff confused rehabilitation counselors with addictions counselors.

In contrast, results showed service providers knew about the Housing First model and agreed with its fundamental principles, values, and notions about the homeless population. Still, some participants expressed reservations about the model's effectiveness on the island due to environmental factors such as lack of sufficient support services, poor accessibility to services, and the local government’s insufficient support to programs working on behalf of the homeless population. The participants' experiences were consistent with those of other professionals transitioning to a housing first approach to service. Still, to effectively implement the model, community-based organizations, service providers, and local government officials need to promote continuity of service, a shared public policy, and an open mind to address homelessness in Puerto Rico.


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