Housing First can be an integral part of ending homelessness
As new research is published about Housing First in England, St Mungo’s Chief Executive Steve Douglas CBE explains why its client-centred focus means it can be an ideal fit for us and our clients and echoes our recovery approach. A version of this blog has been published in Inside Housing magazine.
I read a great piece this week about Housing First by the chair of the All Party Parliamentary group for Ending Homelessness Bob Blackman MP.
He recognised the diversity and range of needs our clients have and that “homelessness is complex and every case is unique”, before calling for a much wider roll out of Housing First.
We agree. Housing First may not be the right option for every person but it is an important contribution to accommodation and support solutions to end homelessness and rough sleeping.
This is evidenced in the research published today by Housing First England and Homeless Link.
This detailed and comprehensive research estimates an almost six-fold increase in the capacity of Housing First services across England since 2017.
I am pleased that, working with our local authority partners and housing associations, St Mungo’s has been part of that expansion. We now run 11 Housing First schemes in London, Brighton, Bournemouth and Reading.
And in the last few weeks we have been given approval to expand our existing service in the London Borough of Camden, meaning we will soon be able to support more than 70 clients there.
We also have a new expanded contract for our Brighton Housing First service to support up to 40 clients.
These service expansions give us confidence that our Housing First models work for our clients and for our local authority commissioners. We’ve seen the results.
Importantly, though, we think that this is linked to following certain principles carefully. It’s not a ‘quick fix’.
As many readers will know, Housing First is an internationally recognised approach to tackling homelessness for people with high and complex needs who have been unable to sustain a long term home.
In the model there are no conditions attached to being ‘housing ready’. Instead people are provided with accommodation first and then given access to intensive, multi-faceted ‘wrap around’ long term support with case workers who are able to work intensively with just a small number of clients.
It is based on people having control of the services they receive. That client centred recovery approach is very much our ethos overall at St Mungo’s.
Housing First projects, by their very nature, are time and resource intensive. They don’t work for every person experiencing homelessness, but for a specific cohort of clients they are extremely effective.
It naturally follows that people with the most complex needs often need the greatest support.
However, long term help, requires long term funding.
That is why the Government’s recent commitment to provide multi-year support via the Next Steps and Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programmes is so important, with several Housing First projects already in line for this funding.
But, as highlighted in today’s research, the lack of more secure long term revenue streams is often a factor in why local authorities don’t commission more Housing First services.
If these projects are to have the longevity they need, dedicated mutli-year Government spending commitments are vital.
There is the determination and increasing momentum to end rough sleeping and homelessness, and our experience and this research shows that Housing First can be an integral part of achieving that.
Read more about St Mungo’s Housing First services here.