Housing First may not be the right option for every homeless person, but it is certainly capable of making an important contribution to ending rough sleeping. To do so it needs government support, writes Steve Douglas
I am pleased that, working with our local authority partners and housing associations, St Mungo’s has been part of that expansion. We now run 11 Housing First schemes in London, Brighton, Bournemouth and Reading.
In the past few weeks we have been given approval to expand our existing service in the London Borough of Camden, meaning we will soon be able to support more than 70 clients there. We also have a new expanded contract for our Brighton Housing First service to support up to 40 clients.
These service expansions give us confidence that our Housing First models work for our clients and for our local authority commissioners. We’ve seen the results.
Importantly, though, we think that’s linked to following certain principles carefully. It’s not a ‘quick fix’.
As many readers will know, Housing First is an internationally recognised approach to tackling homelessness for people with high and complex needs who have been unable to sustain a long-term home.
In the model there are no conditions attached to being ‘housing ready’. Instead, people are provided with accommodation first and then given access to intensive, multifaceted ‘wrap-around’ long-term support with case workers who are able to work intensively with a just small number of clients.
It is based on people having control of the services they receive. That client-centred recovery approach is very much our ethos overall at St Mungo’s.
Housing First projects by their very nature are time and resource intensive. They don’t work for every person experiencing homelessness, but for a specific cohort of clients they are extremely effective. It naturally follows that people with the most complex needs often need the greatest support.
However, long-term help, requires long-term funding.
“If these projects are to have the longevity they need, dedicated mutli-year government spending commitments are vital”
That is why the government’s recent commitment to provide multi-year support via the Next Steps and Rough Sleeping Accommodation programmes is so important, with several Housing First projects already in line for this funding.
But, as highlighted in today’s research, the lack of more secure long-term revenue streams is often a factor in why local authorities don’t commission more Housing First services.
If these projects are to have the longevity they need, dedicated mutli-year government spending commitments are vital.
There is the determination and increasing momentum to end rough sleeping and homelessness, and our experience and this research shows that Housing First can be an integral part of achieving that.
Steve Douglas, chief executive, St Mungo’s