Housing First is an approach to long-term homelessness. It offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible and then provides support to link people into the services they need to address any other issues. Housing First is a specialised service for people where supported housing is not suitable, and who have experienced sustained or recurrent homelessness. We currently have significant Housing First services in Scotland and Wales.
The philosophy behind it is that people need to secure their ‘housing first’ – rather than addressing other issues first. Once they have a secure base they can then look at addressing issues such as addiction or mental health problems. It involves the close working of a number of agencies who work together with people to develop a support package that helps them to keep their accommodation and live in the community. Partners can involve street outreach teams; mental health teams; support providers; social services; landlords; drug and alcohol services etc.
Housing First is intended for a small group of people who have not been able to live successfully in supported accommodation or in their own accommodation in the community. This group of people are increasingly presenting more and more complex needs and often struggle in mainstream services – leaving them vulnerable to sleeping rough. Our Housing First projects allow us to offer an alternative solution to a group of vulnerable people who may not otherwise have access to housing or the support that they require.
Housing First workers generally have small caseloads to allow them to work intensively with people. Our Housing First projects adhere to the 7 Homeless Link principles which are:
- Everyone has a right to a home.
- An active engagement approach is used
- Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed
- Housing and support are separated
- Individuals have choice and control
- The service is based on people’s strengths, goals and aspirations
- A harm reduction approach is used
We work hard to find people in the Housing First project accommodation in an area that they want to live in. We work very closely with our partner agencies to meet a range of needs and offer support as long as people want it. We are not the landlord of the Housing First properties and support people to achieve what they want – not what we want. We try to help people develop their self-esteem by building on their strengths and living in a way that minimises the harm they experience.
Housing First services are specialist services that are by referral only. If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough and you feel that they might benefit from a Housing First service, the best place to contact is usually the Homelessness or Housing Options Service at your local council. If you live in an area with two councils – it is the council that you pay your council tax to who will be able to advise you.