Although serious and long-term commitment to homelessness prevention is evident in some countries in the form of primary prevention measures, it is not clear whether a strong shift has already been made from secondary to primary prevention. It is argued here that after almost two decades of literature regarding the ‘prevention turn’ in homelessness policy, one may speak of primary prevention in the prevention stage, and add secondary and tertiary prevention to each of the other three stages of homelessness policy – early, emergency, and long-term intervention strategies. Yet, there must be an attempt at primary prevention, which is more difficult to maintain, mainly for financial reasons. Political will is one key to success in doing this.
Homelessness prevention policies are explained in this article using the case study of Israel's policies in 1948–2010. The findings indicate that Israel dealt with a high risk of homelessness in the 1950s and again in the 1990s through primary homelessness prevention by intervening in the housing market and providing cash assistance. Subsequently, after an overall homelessness policy was first published in Israel in 1996, prevention almost disappeared. However, it seems that, since then, prevention still manifests itself in the form of secondary prevention measures, such as public assistance benefits and housing subsidies. Tertiary prevention also seems to exist, addressing the more entrenched nature of homelessness by means of permanent supportive housing. This article shows that where there is a will there may be a way for prevention.