Housing First for Stoke-on-Trent
By Andy Meakin
VOICES has been implementing an approach to finding accommodation for some homeless people called Housing First. Developed in the United States, Housing First places Homeless People directly in to permanent accommodation. More than thirty homeless people have benefited from this approach since the beginning of VOICES. The approach is based on the idea that in order to engage in other services effectively, people experiencing multiple needs require a place they can call home.
I first remember hearing about Housing First in around 2010 when information began to filter in to the UK of its potential as an approach to tackling single homelessness. Since that time, there have been several pilot projects throughout the country. To date, the most comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of Housing First in the UK is from the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York. The reputation of the Housing First approach for effectiveness can be seen in the fact that the model featured in the manifestos of both major parties at the recent General Election.
“Housing First services were successfully engaging with long-term homeless people with often very high support needs, delivering housing sustainment and showing progress in improving health, well-being and social integration. There was also potential for Housing First services to reduce some costs.”
Bretherton and Pleace (2015), “Housing First in England, An Evaluation of Nine Services”, University of York, page 6.
At VOICES, we’ve learned a lot from the process of implementing the approach in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s my view that we’ve replicated the successes identified by the University of York research. To date, the VOICES Partnership has delivered the model through our team of Services Coordinators who have performed brilliantly. A number of people with a long-term history of rough sleeping have maintained tenancies for a significant period. Stoke-on-Trent City Council have been supportive of the method with the Housing Solutions Team providing advice to VOICES customers. This had led embedding Housing First in the city to be included in the current Homelessness Strategy. It is a task which VOICES was pleased to pick up and support through our systems change work and resources.
Therefore, I’m delighted that we are now taking our learning and implementing Housing First through two of our partner organisations. Brighter Futures and Arch are working together to embed the Housing First approach in the local landscape to effect a long term system change.
This new service will run for three years initially from around April 2018. Our local model will draw on all the learning from VOICES and other schemes from across the country to house people experiencing homelessness directly in to permanent accommodation. It’s important to note that while Housing First has been proven to be effective for some people experiencing homelessness, it is an addition to a wider housing offer and should not be considered as a replacement for existing services.
Homeless Link have been leading advocates for the approach and have established a network for Housing First services in the UK called Housing First England. I think that this is an excellent support network for areas wishing to develop a Housing First model and we’re grateful for the opportunity to participate. More information will be forthcoming about the new service once a specific launch date is established, but in the meantime you can find out about the principles of the model via the Housing First England website (www.hfe.homeless.org.uk).