Housing First Scotland – ‘getting right alongside people to help them make their house a home’

Today, Inside Housing have published an insightful and encouraging article by Martin Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Wheatley Group. With current levels of homelessness in Scotland shamefully high, he outlines how the ‘Housing First’ model could be a game changer, supporting more people to access and maintain their own homes.

Martin explains that Housing First is a model already used in parts of mainland Europe with 80% of rough sleepers finding homes through the scheme. On the back of this success, pilot schemes have been running across the U.K and the Scottish Government are now funding a large-scale pilot. Initiated by by Social Bite, administered by the Corra Foundation and involving a host of partner organisations across Scotland, including the Wheatley group, the outcomes are already promising.

The seven key principles of the model are outlined in the article as follows (based on this useful guide by Housing First England):

1. People have the right to a home so Housing First prioritises access to housing as quickly as possible without any conditions other than the willingness to maintain a tenancy. Individuals won’t lose their tenancy if they disengage from or no longer require support.

2. Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed with housing providers committing to long-term, flexible support without a fixed end date.

3. The housing and support are separate – so housing is not conditional on engaging with the support. The offer of support remains if the tenancy fails.

4. Individuals have choice and control. They have the choice, where possible, about where they live. Accommodation should be pepper-potted and self-contained, unless an individual says they would prefer shared housing.

5. Active engagement. Staff proactively engage clients and caseloads are small. Support provided as long as clients need it.

6. The service supports people to identify their strengths and goals and to develop skills and knowledge to achieve them.

7. A harm reduction approach is used – so individuals who, for example, self-harm are supported to understand practices which minimise the risk of them self-harming.

The Corra Foundation, who are key to administering the Housing First model in Scotland, sum up the approach perfectly as “personalised and persistent, flexible and asset-based – getting right alongside people to help them make their house a home”.

As well as helping people to access their right to a safe home, it sounds to us that Housing First in Scotland will also be important in challenging stigma and assumptions around homelessness. We will certainly be following it’s development over the coming months.

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