St Mungo’s supports call for Government to significantly expand ‘Housing First’ accommodation schemes

Leading Homelessness charity St Mungo’s has supported the call for a specialised housing scheme, designed to help people who have complex and multiple needs and are experiencing homelessness, to be significantly expanded.

The recommendation – which is included in a new report published today (19 February) by the Centre for Social Justice – calls for a significant expansion of the Housing First approach to tackling homelessness.

Housing First is a powerful way to end homelessness, and is an internationally recognised programme designed to support 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 as a platform for change. From there, Housing First workers, who are able to work with just a small number of clients, provide intensive and fully-flexible support to help each client address their needs at their pace.

The Close to Home 2021 report –  supported by Wates Family Enterprise Trust – also concluded that a wider rollout of Housing First is needed to enable the Government to achieve its pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024.

And while praising the aim, the report says that ministers must be more ambitious in their work to transform the lives of people with the most complex challenges if that target is to be met.

The report makes three overarching recommendations, calling on the Government to:

  • Provide sustainable funding for a national Housing First Programme by committing £150.3m for three years to deliver 16,450 Housing First places in England
  • Increase the supply of social and privately-rented homes for Housing First by using the Affordable Homes Programme, building upon and expanding the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme; and ensuring people who are sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation are exempt from the benefit cap
  • Provide national stewardship by appointing a Housing First Programme Director within the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Reacting to the report, Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s said: “We have been one of the pioneers of Housing First since its introduction in the UK and we currently support more than 280 clients in 12 Housing First schemes in London, Brighton, Bournemouth and Reading – with more due to start in the next few months.

“As a result of our work as frontline service providers we know how effective the approach can be, and how successful it can be for our clients. Its ethos of putting the individual at the heart of every service is a core value of St Mungo’s.

“However, we know the scheme is not a ‘quick fix’ and we agree with the CSJ report which highlights that it will require significant and sustained funding,” said Mr Douglas.

He continued: “The report makes some excellent recommendations about how the scheme and its positive effects can be extended, and has our support.

“And if they are acted on, alongside Local Authorities and our other partners, we are ready deliver this rollout which would provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“There is the determination and increasing momentum to end rough sleeping and homelessness which has been evidenced clearly by what has been accomplished during the pandemic. And from our experience we know that Housing First can, and should be, an integral part of achieving that.”

The CSJ report also features a profile of St Mungo’s Housing First scheme in Camden, London which was started in 2010 and is one of the longest running in England.

In the past Housing First has been considered by some to be costly. However the report calculates that if an estimated £9,683 is spent annually per Housing First client, some £15,073 is saved on other bills-included homelessness services, the Criminal Justice System, NHS and mental health services as well as substance addiction support.

It also says that the latest evidence shows that at least 16,000 people would benefit from the approach, however only around 2,000 places are currently available across England.

In the areas where St Mungo’s works this equates to a demand of 6,000 places where at the moment there are fewer than 800.

Read more about St Mungo’s Housing First work here.