Housing First – a philosophy or an intervention?

Thursday, 1 September 2016 - 11:42am

Is Housing First a specific service model or a set of principles that can be applied to suit your context?  Jo Prestidge explains more.

A few months ago, when I started work on a set of principles for the use of Housing First in England, I got some of my colleagues together to discuss whether Housing First in England should be defined as a prescriptive service model or a more general approach to providing housing to specific groups of people.

I was slightly confused myself.  I was aware that there were specific projects named Housing First, which placed people in self-contained units with intensive support, but I also knew of a number of other services which had a very similar approach but were not named ‘Housing First’. 

By this point I’d also met various people providing Housing First services across the country.  I had learned that there is some variety in the type of accommodation used – not all were placing people in self-contained units – but did that mean they weren’t Housing First?

The original Pathway model of Housing First expects that individuals will be placed in ‘scattered site’ housing in order to integrate into their community.  And I think this is where some of the confusion has arisen from, that the replication of this in England has meant that Housing First is seen as a specific model, and not a philosophy as it is intended. 

The approach has been adapted across the world to fit the context of the country or area in which it is being implemented.  Regardless of where it is used, or the type of accommodation an individual is offered, the housing outcomes remain the same.  This therefore suggests that the underlying philosophy of the service, and the principles underpinning the support, is in fact what makes it successful.  Not the type of housing used.

We’ve been working on a set of principles for the design and delivery of a service using the Housing First approach in England.  Our principles align to the key philosophies underpinning the Pathway and European Housing First approaches.  In a nutshell they define that Housing First prioritises housing over any other need, is not linked to support and emphasises choice, empowerment and recovery.  We’ll be publishing them soon.

So what does this mean here in England?  It means that:

  • wherever you are based, and whatever your housing supply, you could have a service that adheres to the key principles of Housing First which successfully houses people with complex needs where other services have failed
  • some of the most vulnerable in your community are given a stable platform in which to begin their recovery
  • there can be real grass roots innovation in how you use the key principles to design services for your area and for the people who need it
  • existing services in your area can adopt the principles where possible to improve support provision and provide high quality services

Look out for the key principles for the use of a Housing First approach in England, coming soon, and in the meantime please contact Jo Prestidge to discuss this further.

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Jo Prestidge

Innovation and good practice project manager

Jo is an innovation and good practice project manager, leading a range of projects and training including Housing First England and Trauma Informed Care.