Housing First England is a new project to create and support a national movement of Housing First services, improving the lives of, and support for, some of society’s most excluded people.
Housing First new guidance
Over 30 services are fully operational in England, and Homeless Link is providing advice and support to these providers in several ways, such as two very successful Big Team Awayday events for frontline workers in April this year.
In the lead up to the General Election, the Conservative party manifesto pledged to use a Housing First approach as one of the ways of tackling homelessness, and subsequently the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, speaking at a Big Issue parliamentary event, said that he wanted to see Housing First “rolled out across Britain”.
The principles of Housing First
Since the launch of the programme, we have faced a dilemma on whether to describe Housing First as a “philosophy” or a “model”. We agreed that Housing First is not a prescriptive model but a set of principles, and these were successfully launched at the end of 2016. Schemes should show “fidelity” to these principles in order to be truly described as Housing First. This has revealed a wider learning point around what Housing First actually means. We have come across services that do not describe themselves as Housing First, but reflect the principles and others that do not reflect the principles, but are describing themselves as Housing First!
One of the key findings of Homeless Link’s 2015 research (1) was that fidelity to the model of Housing First has been mixed with many services conflating a “housing-led” model, which provides a much lower level of support. Housing First is defined by housing with wraparound intensive support, designed for entrenched rough sleepers with multiple and complex needs. This is an ongoing discussion that the research programme detailed below will explore.
New guidance for commissioners
This summer, we published two pieces of guidance for support providers and social landlords and this week these are being joined by new guidance for commissioners. This aims to provide support to local areas, helping them to appreciate the strategic relevance of commissioning Housing First, establishing need by understanding the numbers of people with multiple and complex needs in the locality, and the potential outcomes and savings that can be gained. Housing First is not a low-cost option, however, the long term benefits cannot be overstated.
Throughout the project, we will be taking an in-depth look at the cost effectiveness of Housing First and what makes it successful. A three-part research programme will examine models of Housing First in England, “who pays” to understand who is commissioning Housing First and why, and the impacts of Housing First on individuals, communities and the public purse.
Overall, there has been an unprecedented demand for knowledge about Housing First. The regional events to launch the principles were oversubscribed, and we were able to support Housing First residents to speak at these events about their experiences, which proved powerful and enabled us to illustrate the direct impact of Housing First on people’s lives.
As with any project of this type, we have planned for an evaluation, which is currently under way. The final evaluation report will be published before the project ends in December 2018.
For further information, contact Joanne Prestidge, Innovation and Good Practice Manager at email@example.com and to find out more about the research programme, contact Debra Hertzberg, Research Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Homeless Link Policy and Research Team (2015) “Housing First” or “Housing Led”? The current picture of Housing First in England. Homeless Link, London.
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Head of policy and communications
Caroline currently job shares her role with Helen Mathie, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.
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