Alex Smith, Housing First England’s practice project manager, reflects on how Housing First services across England are implementing the key principles in practice.
New co-produced guide for people offered Housing First
Accessible information about the service helps to achieve this principle. Our Housing First England project has created a leaflet for people offered, or supported by, Housing First, which explains what they can expect from the service and from having their own tenancy. The aim is to help people to understand the Principles of Housing First and to decide whether it is right for them.
We co-produced this leaflet with expert by experience groups involved with Housing First in the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Stoke on Trent.
Neil, a member of the Co-Production Panel for the Greater Manchester Housing First Pilot, shares his thoughts on making materials available for service users and why experts by experience should be involved:
Why might this guide be useful for Housing First residents?
“So they understand the service and what it offers, and how it can help them access and maintain a normal standard of living, or give them support to help them grow or improve their lives. It tells them that it’s a service that’s shaped around them as a person and that it’s entirely down to them what they want to do, and how they want to do it, and how they are supported. The guide is there to show that the service is different in the way it works to all the other services out there. It’s set out really well explaining the service as a whole. It’s great that it says about residents’ rights and responsibilities.”
Why is it important to produce information for people offered services?
“It’s important to produce materials like this for the people using the service so they know what help they can get. They should be involved in making decisions in their own lives. It can get distributed and displayed in services they may be using, such as night shelters, food banks, housing options, and A&E.”
Why should experts by experience be involved?
“It’s totally vital that people with lived experience are involved in producing material because they’re the ones that have lived that life, so they understand [people’s] needs better. They should be involved from the very start and have a lot of input.
“It makes people feel valued, gives them new skills to be able to move forward and makes them feel worthwhile. It makes them feel listened to and heard and connects them together - doing something positive with people that’s gone through similar backgrounds. It will add value to the service.”
How and why should experts by experience be involved in Housing First?
“Experts by experience should be involved at all levels as this gives you a voice with experience to say why things aren’t working and what needs to change. Services should work fully side by side with us and value our knowledge. The Co-Production Panel has been helpful in guiding and moulding this process in Manchester Housing First and has brought along values-based work ethics that get the workers to understand us as people. It can show how to bring equality into the service and better ways of communication. It’s important that services always have a way of changing and bringing new ideas on board.”
Neil also commented that services should include peer mentoring led initiatives that help to upskill the mentors, and provide opportunities for them to be paid for their expertise. He added: “It’s important to also create other means of employment or pathways to other services too then we will be involved in the service at all levels, creating transparency which also brings openness and honesty!”
Using the leaflet
Please download, print and use our leaflet if you are interested in Housing First, have been offered a tenancy, or would like to tell existing and potential residents about a service you run.
If you would like to request a number of hard copies, please email email@example.com.
Housing First Conference
To hear more about involving people with lived experience in Housing First, join us at our Housing First Conference 2020, in central London on 16th March: https://www.homeless.org.uk/housing-first-national-conference-2020.
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