Close to Home: Delivering a national Housing First programme in England
by Sarah Rowe, CSJ Senior Researcher
In 2017 the CSJ met Wayne.
By then he had successfully sustained a tenancy for 20 months, supported by one of the few Housing First schemes available in England at the time. But Wayne’s journey to stability was far from easy.
Wayne left the army aged 22 with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Drinking heavily to self-medicate his mental health condition, he ended up addicted to crack and heroin. His Housing First tenancy was his first settled home since exiting the forces, having spent 30 years cycling in and out of homelessness and prison. With the dedicated, intensive support of his Housing First worker he had stopped using class A drugs and was learning the living skills needed to manage life in his privately rented studio flat.
In 2021 we caught up with Wayne again, just as he was moving into a retirement flat. The early impact of Housing First on his life had been sustained, and the support it provided was now being gradually reduced.
Wayne told us that he was happy to share his story, and wanted more people to benefit from the support he had received. In our new report, Close to Home: Delivering a national Housing First progamme in England, we tell the stories of many more people like Wayne who have begun to transform their lives as a result of Housing First.
Housing First is a highly effective way of tackling entrenched rough sleeping. It offers people a settled home and intensive person-centred support, and it does this without conditions other than someone’s willingness to take on a tenancy. This unconditional approach is one of the key reasons for its success.
Quite simply, Housing First works. The early learning from three city-region Housing First pilots funded by Government confirms an extensive body of international evidence. Only a small minority of people helped through Housing First repeat the cycle of rough sleeping – in the city-regions pilots, 88 per cent of people have sustained their tenancies so far. A recent independent evaluation of the pilots showed that those helped across the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands include people with a history of multiple failed tenancies who are now living more settled lives, reconnecting with families and reducing their impact on the criminal justice system.
By helping people live more settled lives, Housing First provides great value for money. We calculate that it will cost £150.3 million a year over three years to deliver the 16,450 places we need. But every £1 spent delivers £1.56 of reductions in spending on homelessness services, the criminal justice system, the NHS and mental health services.
The Government recognises that Housing First is cost-effective. As well as investing in the three large-scale city region pilots, it has funded numerous small-scale services through the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) and, in its 2019 manifesto, committed to expanding provision further. Around 2,000 Housing First places are now available across England, providing unconditional access to settled housing and intensive, person-centred support.
This is great progress. But we need to go further to reach the thousands of rough sleepers facing the most profound challenges. It is estimated that at least 16,500 people are experiencing the combination of homelessness, serious mental health issues, drug or alcohol dependency and offending behaviour that mean they would be eligible for Housing First.
For the Government to help many more people like Wayne – and meet its ambitious target to end rough sleeping by 2024 – it needs to push forward now with a national roll out of Housing First.
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