Leading homeless charity St Mungo’s has praised the success of a new Hackney and City of London Housing First initiative to help people with long-term histories of homelessness and poor health.

A year on, the scheme is marking a successful year with 10 people now maintaining tenancies and feeling more positive about the future. Between them, these clients have a history of sleeping rough which spans more than 80 years.

St Mungo’s was commissioned by Hackney Council and the City of London Corporation to provide the pioneering service, as the homelessness charity has been at the forefront of designing, implementing and running Housing First projects in the UK. The charity is one of the largest providers of Housing First services in England, currently supporting over 280 clients in nine different locations from Bournemouth to Brighton, and from Reading to Westminster.

Housing First is an approach originating in New York as an alternative to emergency shelter provision. It helps people with complex needs to secure a tenancy first, with a long term and flexible package of support around them to help, and St Mungo’s has supported calls for significant expansion of the scheme.

People have been housed in properties across Hackney and the surrounding boroughs with the help of housing association providers Peter Bedford Association, Clarion and Sanctuary Housing, alongside private landlords.

Although plans had to be slowed down because of the pandemic, the scheme is now successfully housing 10 clients, and staff are also supporting a further ten clients to find high quality and affordable tenancies in Hackney and the surrounding boroughs. The clients are aged between 39 and 50, with many experiencing long-term illness or mental health problems.

All clients are engaging with their assigned Housing First workers on a weekly basis, and also engaging with trauma-informed support services to aid their recovery.

Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “For people with a history of rough sleeping and complicated physical and mental health issues, Housing First is an approach that can be very effective. As one of the largest providers of Housing First services across the country, we know how successful this approach can be for our clients. It offers a place to live with intensive personalised support.

“Crucially, people continue to receive support from their Housing First support worker to maintain their tenancy, which can often be an important moment to help them get things positively back on track for the long term.

“We are very pleased to be working with Hackney, the City and partners from each of the housing associations to enable homeless people from those boroughs to be supported to rebuild their lives. Incredible work has been undertaken to implement this scheme and we will continue to work together to help people experiencing homelessness achieve long-lasting recovery.”

A client from the project who has been living in a local Housing First property since April 2020, said: “I have been on the streets on and off for the last four years, and I thought I’d die out there. I’ve been in my Housing First flat for almost a year now, and I feel totally safe. I am looking forward to the rest of my life. The support I’m getting is amazing. I feel the world is my oyster now.”

Denise D’Souza, Interim Group Director Adults, Health and Integration at Hackney Council, said: “We’re pleased to have been working with St Mungo’s, the City & Hackney CCG and City of London Corporation to support vulnerable residents into housing through the Housing First programme. Not only does this programme give residents a safe, comfortable place to call home, it also ensures that they receive wider support based on their individual needs.

“Despite the pandemic, St Mungo’s have placed all 10 residents identified as part of the programme’s first cohort into housing. These residents, who have a range of varying needs, have already experienced significant changes as a result of the longer-term support that Housing First offers.

“St Mungo’s are also supporting the second cohort identified for Housing First placements whilst they’re living in the Pembury Hotel, Hackney’s response to the national ‘Everyone In’ initiative.

“In the 2018 manifesto there was a commitment to ending rough sleeping in our borough, and Housing First as well as our recently updated Rough Sleeping Strategy is playing a key role in taking us towards this.

“It’s been a whirlwind for the team supporting our Housing First clients, who are working hard to deliver the service whilst navigating the ongoing impact of the pandemic. We would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thanks to everyone involved in this project.”

Chairman of City of London Corporation’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Sub-Committee, Marianne Fredericks, said: “Housing First supports the City’s homeless community by helping them to move off the streets and into safe accommodation.

“Rough sleeping is the most acute and visible form of homelessness, and an issue that remains a challenge not only in the Square Mile, but right across London and indeed the country.

“Every single person has the right to feel safe, secure and protected. And by working with our partners, we are proud to support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”