Yellowknife city council has approved a plan that will bring the "housing first" model to the city.

“Housing first is a principle that says before you can deal with mental health or addictions issues, people need a roof over their heads,” says Mayor Mark Heyck.

The idea is to place people in homes rather than rely on emergency shelters.

Housing first doesn't require people to be sober to get a home.

Heyck says the city also has to do more to help homeless youth.

“We've made some strides in addressing homeless for adult men and women with the Betty and Bailey houses, but youth are still to a considerable degree underserved.”

Lydia Bardak, with the John Howard Society in Yellowknife, says this model is something the city desperately needs.

“Having a person or a family in an apartment is more cost effective than putting them in an emergency shelter,” she says.

Bardak says in cities that are using the strategy, support workers see less binge drinking among the homeless, fewer emergency room visits, and fewer run-ins with police.

City council has adopted a five year plan to roll out the model.

The five-year Homelessness Strategy would set up a youth-specific housing complex.

It would have on-site support services to help youth gain independence.

The city hopes to be able to get up to $360,000 a year from the federal government to start the program.