Housing First - experiences of a pilot project
A blog by Sarah Walters who works for Shelter Manchester
Housing First is making headlines. [WOTS - See a previous blog on this; 'An end to rough sleeping?' ].
Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State, has expressed an interest in exploring it as a means to end chronic homelessness and the government are promising money to fund pilots in key areas. Stories of lives changed by the simple provision of permanent accommodation are making glad reading for cities recording steep rises in visible homelessness.
In Manchester, Shelter, through the Big Lottery funded Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) programme, are running a 2 year Housing First pilot. ICM works with people who have multiple complex needs; homelessness, offending histories, substance misuse problems and mental health issues and who are disengaged and often excluded from services. Those who have lived experience of these needs drive the design and delivery of ICM, and pushed for the model to be tested. They saw their experiences in trying to access accommodation being mirrored in the lives of those on the programme. We researched and reviewed and saw that Housing First could make a real difference.
Housing First does not require individuals to be ‘fixed’ through abstinence or sobriety before being able to get a place to call their own. It states that people who are homeless should be valued and respected and deserving of a home. It does not make the provision of a home conditional on the engagement of support. It gives security to enable those who have been homeless to start addressing some of the reasons that have caused their often chaotic housing history. The results are impressive. Around 40% of tenancies are sustained through the traditional hostel transitional route; Housing First sees an 80% - 90% success rate in terms of tenancy sustainment for the same client group.
I (Sarah) have been leading the Housing First pilot in Manchester and, with an amazing team of support workers and volunteers, have seen transformation and growth as homeless people are given their own property and thrive. Terry, arrested 52 times in the year preceding being housed, incarcerated 27 times has had no involvement with the police since he was housed off the streets. Bill and Colin, living in tents and rough sleeping for decades between them, are now housed together in a property owned by a sympathetic Housing Association. Colin visited his family over Easter for the first time in many years. Linda, suffering with serious medical conditions requiring attention, is now living in her own property which she has sustained for over a year with support. Housing First has literally saved her life.
Manchester based Housing Associations have come together to pledge support for the pilot by offering accommodation specifically for ICM. The team face challenges in securing good quality affordable private rented accommodation; a fact replicated across the city and the region for all those who are required to pay rent with a housing subsidy.
The truth is that there is not enough affordable good quality housing across the country.
The truth is also that for the small cohort of recurrently homeless men and women who would benefit from Housing First, housing can and is being found. And as permanent tenancies are being offered and accepted, homeless people are being settled and treated with value and respect, lives are being changed.
Please pray for Sarah and her team and for the men and women being helped and more accomodation to become available. Please also pray for the Government and devolved Governments to give their support and backing to rolling out Housing First nationally.
If you are involved in housing or people experiencing homelessness and want to find out more or want to support Shelter, then Sarah can be contacted here.
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