Principles of Housing First – Part one
Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer, VOICES
In the last newsletter I listed the 7 Principles of Housing First England and over the next few editions I aim to look at these in some detail and describe how some of the principles have ‘non-negotiable’ or essential aspects which separate the Housing First model from other support services.
People have a right to a home
Prioritising access to housing as quickly as possible is a central tenet of Housing First and gaining suitable and stable housing is not contingent on any conditions other than willingness to maintain a tenancy. This diverges from many supported housing services who may ask to see evidence of the person’s recovery before accommodating them. Regular engagement with substance misuse services or having mental health support already in place can be potential conditions to be accepted onto a housing waiting list but can also be difficult to achieve when rough sleeping or living in unstable accommodation. Non-conditional access to housing is a ‘non- negotiable’ factor.
Stability of tenure is another ‘non-negotiable’ aspect to being considered a Housing First Service. The individual will have their own tenancy agreement and will not lose their housing if they disengage or no longer require the support. This aims to help people feel safe and empowered and therefore be more able to begin or resume their recovery as they should not feel like their home can be taken away from them.
Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed
Building trusting relationships and offering unconditional support can be key to recovery. Recovery can take time and varies by individual needs, characteristics and experiences, so a permanent offer of support is a ‘non-negotiable’ characteristic of Housing First. This support follows the person and is not linked to the tenancy.
The service should be designed for flexibility of support with procedures in place for high/low intensity support provision and for cases that are ‘dormant’. To allow for this staff need to have capacity to be responsive to the needs of those they support and so another ‘non-negotiable’ is to keep the workers’ caseloads low.
The support provided through the Housing First service can link in with other relevant services that will help to meet the full range of an individual’s needs. There should be clear pathways into and out of the service with support provided for the individual to transition away from Housing First if this is a positive choice for them.