Report exploring innovation and identifying opportunities to sustain and expand Housing First services.
Investigating the current and future funding of Housing First in England
The role of Housing First in tackling homelessness has come into focus in the last few years, especially with large new pilots recently being announced in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. Since 2016, Homeless Link has been delivering its Housing First England project, funded by Lankelly Chase and Comic Relief, to support Housing First services across England to grow and develop. One of the major challenges they’ve shared is the precarious nature of funding, with many on short-term contracts, which puts the ‘permanent’ nature of the Housing First offer at risk.
To help understand how it can be more sustainable, we have published a new report which explores the current funding landscape and how this can be diversified and strengthened in the future.
How else can Housing First be funded?
Around two-thirds of Housing First projects currently receive funding from their local authority, usually through Housing Related Support budgets. The next most common type of funding is through grant-making charities. Both of these funding sources are vulnerable in terms of the sustainability of existing projects, as funding tends to be short-term or, in the case of grants, have a defined end date.
We wanted to explore how else Housing First can be funded, given its potential for not just ending homelessness but achieving significant change to other areas of people’s lives- such as improving health and wellbeing, reducing substance misuse and reducing offending. The study did find examples where a greater range of commissioners – such as social care, Public Health and local police - are contributing funding, although many of these are small scale. While this is encouraging, these types of arrangements were still quite limited, so we believe much more needs to be done to create a wider and more sustainable funding base.
The study also looked at the approach to funding and found examples such as pooled budgets, spot purchasing or where Housing First is part of a payment by results Social Impact Bond, like the Changing Lives project in Gateshead.
All of these have potential but from speaking to funders and policymakers, it is clear that we need to do much more to mainstream some of these approaches. There are significant barriers to creating an environment where Housing First is considered a ‘go-to’ intervention for a broader base of commissioners, often the result of extreme pressure on budgets across public services, and the perception that the evidence base still needs strengthening, despite the comparatively strong evidence base that already exists.
Stronger cross-governmental commitment
While the report calls for a broader base of local commissioners to contribute to Housing First, it also stresses the need for a strong cross-government commitment beyond the current pilots. All existing domestic and international evidence points out that Housing First should be recognised as a health and wellbeing intervention as well as a housing service. As such we urge much stronger cross-governmental commitment to Housing First as an approach to supporting people with complex needs.
It is also key that Housing First is not funded or commissioned in isolation – it should be seen as part of wider health and housing strategies both locally and nationally, and the mix of services needed to achieve this. With the growing momentum and evidence behind the Housing First movement across England, it needs to be taken seriously as another aspect of the investment needed to enable people experiencing homelessness and multiple needs to progress and thrive.
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