Housing First will be “pivotal” to fight against homelessness

Third Force News, by Graham Martin

Permanent housing should be the first and not the last step a person takes as they move out of homelessness, a summit will hear.

A multi-agency approach – including vital contributions from the third and social housing sectors – aims to completely change the country’s response to people losing their homes.

Too often, homeless people have to endure a cycle of sleeping rough and/or temporary accommodation before finding a permanent solution.

Now it has been confirmed that Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling will lead the Scottish Government’s three-year Housing First Pathfinder, which provides permanent housing as a first, rather than last, response for people at the sharpest end of homelessness.

Highlighting what can be achieved if government, councils and charities work in partnership to make this new approach successful will be the message to some of the country’s top housing, social care and voluntary sector professionals gathering on Wednesday (28 November) in Dundee.

They will be attending Scotland’s inaugural Housing First Summit, organised by the Homeless Network, and will hear housing minister, Kevin Stewart MSP, leading academics in the field and people with first-hand experience of homelessness explain why Housing First is so effective at reducing rough sleeping.

Mick Wright has already moved into a Housing First flat as part of the early stages of the programme after experiencing homeless on-and-off for nearly a decade.

He said: “Having a home rather than just a temporary roof over my head has transformed my life. The stability let me get the help I need with issues that led to me becoming homeless. It used to be that you had to completely sort yourself out, jump through all kinds of hoops before you could get a home, and that’s not easy when you’re struggling to cope.

“I ended up walking the streets or in B&B’s, just bouncing around the system and was vulnerable. Housing First has given me a secure base. My boy is able to come to my house, I pay bills, I feel on top of things and can move forward and feel hopeful for the first time in years – I even have a welcome mat at my front door, it’s my home and I’m proud of it.”

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of the Homeless Network, believes this is a pivotal moment.

She said: “Rough sleeping is not inevitable and could be ended with the right choices and investment. Scotland’s Housing First programme represents an opportunity to end it for good if government, councils and charities continue to work effectively together. We must also keep listening to and learning from people with first-hand experience of homelessness.”

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Sally Thomas described this as “a historic opportunity”.

She added: “We have the political will, we have funding available and we have key housing agencies in housing ready to deliver. There is an appetite to do better and move Scotland towards a fairer, more equal society. Our members are already helping to tackle homelessness through practical work in communities, sustaining tenancies and giving people access to the best quality homes.

“Let’s work together now to turn this plan into reality.”

Housing First will be a vital part of all homelessness services across the country and the 32 Scottish local authorities must submit their plans for how it will work in their area to the Scottish Government by December.

The five cities across Scotland leading this new approach include the two that experience the most acute homelessness and rough sleeping challenges.

Homeless households in both Glasgow and Edinburgh spend more than double the number of days annually in temporary accommodation compared to other local authority areas.