We’ve put together some of the following Q&As to help understand how Housing First will help to put an end to homelessness in Scotland.
Q: What is Housing First and what does it hope to achieve?
Housing First is a project which provides secure tenancies to those enduring homelessness and complex needs. The current system of housing individuals in expensive, unfit for purpose B&Bs and conglomerate hostel accommodation, with poor facilities and no support, is a chief cause of repeat homelessness.
Housing First aims to replace this broken system by providing individuals with secure tenancies and wrap-around support to maintain them.
Q: How will this work?
Housing First is currently being rolled out across five areas – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling in what is known as The Pathfinder Project, a spearhead venture to demonstrate how a comprehensive Housing First programme can be successfully implemented across Scotland.
Launched in August 2018 it will, over a two year period, allow 830 people experiencing homelessness and complex needs to access a permanent home with extensive support for as long as needed.
Housing First is tied to the Scottish Government’s Rapid Rehousing Transition plans and the government is committed to rolling out the project across Scotland.
Q: Is this designed to cover rough sleeping in particular or all forms of homelessness?
It covers rough sleeping and temporary accommodation. As the name suggests it is all about getting people into secure homes and away from dangerous situations such as the street and other insecure settings in which they are vulnerable to abuse.
Q: What are complex needs?
Complex needs cover a variety of areas including mental health, relationship breakdown and substance misuse which have arisen as a result of underlying circumstances, trauma or abuse.
Q: What makes Housing First the best model?
Last year we commissioned Heriot-Watt University to conduct a rigorous report into “Eradicating Core Homelessness in Scotland’s Four Largest Cities”. The conclusion of this report was that a project such as Housing First was the best way forward to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
Housing First projects have also been operating in other countries for several years with a demonstrated success rate of 80 percent tenancy retention after two years.
A small Housing First project (22 people) instigated by Turning Point Scotland (TPS) has been successfully running in Glasgow since 2012. TPS is now providing training to all provider organisations in The Pathfinder Project.
Q: How are people selected/referred for Housing First?
Referrals and selections usually come from organisations who are working at the frontline of homelessness. Those referred will be people with multiple support needs and a history of chronic homelessness who have been failed by the current system.
Q: What support is provided?
Support takes a person centred approach in which help evolves with the needs of the individual.
Support services commit to long-term provision with the aim of promoting self-worth, positive social networks, community integration and meaningful occupation of time through work and volunteering. This will include help with living skills, paying bills, cooking, mental health and addiction issues. There is no end date to support. The main aim is stability and preventing repeat homelessness.
Q: What kind of housing is provided?
Housing is provided according to individual needs within the available options.
Q: How do you respond to criticism that Housing First is further depleting already scarce council housing and as a result forcing a new set of people, who may not have the complex needs of others, into unsuitable emergency and temporary accommodation?
Houses are not solely provided from council stock but also housing associations and private rental properties. Supporting individuals to remain in tenancies and look after their homes can only be positive and lend weight to the push for more investment in council and social housing.
Q: Is there anyone the project would turn away?
Eligibility for Housing First is not contingent on any conditions other than willingness to maintain a tenancy and no-one will lose a home if they disengage or no longer need support.
Q: What happens when something goes wrong? Can people be evicted?
Under Housing First no-one will be put out on the street. If, for whatever reason a tenancy fails, individuals will be supported to acquire and maintain a new home or supported into other accommodation.
Q: Are pets allowed?
Q: How do the costs compare with the current system?
International evidence shows significant savings to the public purse is possible after the initial set-up and transitional period of about two years. These savings are not only in the housing sector but also in use of accident and emergency, mental health and criminal justice services. The full cost benefits will be revealed at the end of the 2-year period in the external evaluation report so that the savings can be better understood in the wider context of Scotland.
Q: Who is involved in Housing First along with Social Bite?
Housing First is a collaborative approach involving a number of voluntary organisations, the Scottish Government, Local Authorities and academic partners.
Social Bite has commissioned Glasgow Homeless Network (GHN) to co-ordinate delivery of the programme and the Corra Foundation to support the process by selecting the consortia to run Housing First in the five locations.
Q: How will the project be evaluated?
Ongoing evaluation will be carried out quarterly by the consortium in each area and externally by the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University.