As the concept of Housing First becomes more popular, it is at times being misunderstood.
Raising the profile of Housing First – reflections from the 2017 party conferences
Organised by the Centre for Social Justice, which published a report on housing and homelessness earlier this year, panels of speakers discussed and debated the key interventions required to prevent and end homelessness.
A key message that came out from both events was that Housing First is an effective solution for those who are rough sleeping with complex needs.
The behaviours key to success
At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, we heard from Julian Corner, CEO of Lankelly Chase, on how Housing First incorporates many of the behaviours his organisation has identified as key to success when supporting individuals experiencing multiple disadvantage. These were:
- Decision-making being as close to the problem as possible
- People seen as resourceful and capable of finding their own solution
- Ability to forge a common vision between actors in the system
- Investing in effective relationships
- Continually learning and staying curious
A commitment from government
In Manchester, The Secretary of State, Sajid Javid MP joined the panel and spoke of his own visits to Finland and the US to see the impact of Housing First himself. He reiterated the government’s manifesto pledge to reduce rough sleeping and pilot Housing First.
Whilst a commitment to Housing First is obviously greatly welcomed, other panel members voiced their concerns about the approach being piloted in England. There are many successful projects and a growing evidence base of use of the approach here. Funding pilots can cause a cliff edge to the support revenue which can leave vulnerable people in accommodation without the intensive case management they require to keep it.
On funding for Housing First, an interesting point was raised by Brooks Newmark, who as a Conservative MP had roles relating to the Treasury and Cabinet Office. He stated that in the financial world, projections are made around long-term investment and return. Whilst this is the approach required to produce sustainable and pooled funding sources, this is not how budgets are set by central government.
Voices from the frontline
We were pleased to use this opportunity to voice some of the experiences shared with us by the many frontline providers we are working with through our Housing First England project. After providing more detail about how the approach is being used already in England, we highlighted some of the barriers which need to be addressed:
- Access to housing and payment of rent including restrictive allocations policies and availability of social housing, availability of good quality privately rented accommodation, Implications of Local Housing Allowance and Universal Credit
- Access to long-term sustainable support funding including the threats of short-term commissioning contracts, and limited examples where statutory sources, other than Housing Related Support, are funding the approach
- Access to wider health and social care services which continues to be problematic for Housing First residents in some areas of the country
We passionately believe in Housing First, but made the point that it isn’t the silver bullet – we voiced concerns about the future of supported housing whilst reiterating that Housing First is estimated as cost-effective for just 20% of the homeless population.
Homelessness – it’s everyone’s business
Not only were delegates urged to contact their MP in order to raise the issue of homelessness and Housing First locally, there was a clear consensus on the need for a cross-departmental strategy to address homelessness that reaches from central government down to the frontline in every sector.
Homeless Link will continue to call for this on behalf of our members whilst supporting the development of Housing First and protection of other forms of housing and support.
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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.
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