Housing First is an evidence-based approach to successfully supporting people with high needs and histories of entrenched or repeat homelessness to live in their own homes.
The overall philosophy of Housing First is to provide a stable, independent home and intensive personalised support and case management to homeless people with multiple and complex needs. Housing is seen as a human right by Housing First services. There are no conditions around ‘housing readiness’ before providing someone with a home; rather, secure housing is viewed as a stable platform from which other issues can be addressed.
Housing First is a different model because it provides housing ‘first’, as a matter of right, rather than ‘last’ or as a reward.
Housing First has an international evidence base which has found it to be an effective response to people with complex needs who have been homeless for many years. As well as the human benefits, it often provides major savings to health, criminal justice and local authority services who no longer have to provide repeat “sticking plaster” interventions to often troubled and troubling individuals.
You can find a short explanatory video on Housing First at the end of this blog post where the model is beautifully explained by a beneficiary:
“I believe than when you build a life, it’s like building a building. you start with the foundations, not the roof. I was being offered jobs, training courses, college but no housing”.
Driving take-up of Housing First
Despite the proven effectiveness of the Housing First model, take-up in England has been gradual. Although there has a steadily increasing flow of new projects, most tend to be small scale.
Homeless Link, the national membership charity for homelessness and supported housing services, has commissioned policy advice on how to involve the mental health, substance misuse and criminal justice sectors more in the funding and delivery of Housing First projects.
The Centre for Mental Health is developing the policy advice on the mental health sector. Collective Voice and myself are doing the work in the substance misuse sector and I am fulfilling the commission for criminal justice.
Homeless Link is keen to:
- Identify current activity, understanding and/or interest in in Housing First in the these sectors.
- Establish the need for, and benefit of, Housing First.
- Identify how it could work; particularly in terms of commissioning and funding as well as potential partnerships.
- Assess the challenges and barriers in developing more Housing First for service users who have substance misuse issues and are in contact with the criminal justice system..
If you have an interest and/or particular knowledge and expertise in this area, I would be very grateful if you would take five minutes of your time to complete an online survey.