Principles of Housing First: Part two
Author: Stephen Willis, Project Officer, VOICES
In Septembers newsletter I looked at the first 2 of 7 principles that Housing First England recommend a service should adhere to when supporting people in order to have more success in achieving positive outcomes. This edition will look at principles 3, 4 and 5 and will discuss any aspects of them which Housing First England consider ‘non-negotiable’ and which separate the model from other types of support service.
Housing and Support are separated
Issues around a person’s tenancy are treated separately from other support needs; an individual’s housing is not conditional on them engaging with support and vice versa. This can be different from other supported housing services where a person may have to show they are already engaged with support before being offered accommodation, or potentially risking eviction if they do not engage with support when housed.
One of the ‘non-negotiables’ for Housing First states that the service should be targeted at individuals experiencing multiple disadvantage as the research shows that it is more effective for them than other support models. Stereotypically these individuals experience short periods accommodated interspersed with periods of homelessness and a contributing factor to this can be that support is often attached to specific accommodation. The stress of losing accommodation is compounded by the stress of losing the support and feelings of another failed home.
With Housing First the offer of support stays with the person throughout different tenancies, loss of housing should be expected and actively planned for. If a tenancy does not work out for whatever reason, then this should be considered an opportunity for learning rather than a ‘failure’. The individual should be supported to acquire and maintain a new home until the ‘right fit’ for them is found. This permanent offer of support is a ‘non-negotiable’ aspect of a Housing First service and contributes to building a trusting relationship which is key to recovery and long-term success for people experiencing multiple disadvantage.
Individuals have choice and control
The customer should have choice, where possible, over the type of housing they have and its’ location (this will always be dependent on availability and affordability). Ideally, they should be scattered sites, (i.e., properties built throughout an area, not concentrated in one spot) self-contained accommodation, unless the individual expresses a preference for living in shared housing.
Customers are supported through person-centred planning and given the lead to shape the support they receive; their goals are their own and not set by the service. The customer should have the option not to engage with other services as long as there is regular contact with the Housing First team and they should choose where, when and how support is provided. Part of the rationale for not insisting on engagement with too much support is that building these trusting relationships can take time and an individual could become overwhelmed if introduced to too many people or too much support all at once. Insistence that the customer must engage with service X or Y could cause them to not feel listened to and back away from the Housing First service itself.
An active engagement approach is used
Staff are responsible for proactively engaging the customers and customers are not penalised if they miss support sessions or appointments. Traditional appointments at set times and places do not always work for customers facing multiple disadvantage and they can become labelled as ‘chaotic’ or ‘hard to reach’ by some services without due consideration of how the customer is choosing to engage with support. Housing First services should be designed to flexibly fit the individual rather than trying to make the individual fit the service. Caseloads should remain small for this reason and is considered another ‘non-negotiable’. This allows staff to be proactive in their approach, trying different, often creative, methods of engagement and not giving up or closing the case when engagement is low.
The exploration of the 7 Principles concludes in the next newsletter. In the meantime you can find more information on the 7 Principles here, more about the ‘non-negotiables’ here and a guide to delivering a ‘high fidelity’ Housing First service (one which adheres to the 7 principles and the ‘non-negotiables) here.