The Launch of Housing First Academy

Maggie Brünjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland writes about the unique role that Turning Point Scotland has in the story of Housing First in Scotland and why the launch of the Housing First Academy is the right step at exactly the right time.

Homeless Network Scotland and Turning Point Scotland have a close and shared history responding to homelessness and all its related issues, and on Housing First in Scotland especially.

The late Ian Irvine is rightly credited with bringing the Housing First model to Scotland in 2010 while Operations Manager with Turning Point Scotland and long-standing trustee of Homeless Network Scotland. While a decade on, Turning Point Scotland’s Director of Operations, Patrick McKay, is serving a term as Chair of Homeless Network Scotland.

In 2016, both organisations founded Housing First Scotland alongside the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research at Heriot-Watt university. This team of leading academics were becoming increasingly convinced by the strength of evidence of Housing First approaches internationally and the better outcomes it could achieve in Scotland for people whose homelessness is made much harder by experiences such as trauma and addiction.

Together, we had a shared ambition to build from the Glasgow pilot and to help partners scale up the approach in their area. Housing First Scotland became a place to direct the energy and interest in Housing First among early adopters and champions emerging across all sectors. We were so inspired by the 250 delegates joining our 2017 and 2018 conferences in Stirling, before we spread out to enable 350 people to join our 2019 conference at Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

Of course, the landscape shifted significantly across that period thanks to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities committee, whose year-long deliberations in 2017-18 concluded that Housing First had a key role to play in ensuring Scotland’s strong, rights-based approach to homelessness is better realised at local level. And the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government in 2017 which committed to resolving homelessness backed by a £50m fund; a cross-sector Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group was appointed with Housing First, as part of a broader rapid rehousing framework, our cornerstone recommendation. 

Meanwhile, Social Bite targeted their remarkable fundraising efforts to catalyse a Housing First Pathfinder in 6 areas, appointing Homeless Network Scotland and Corra Foundation as project and fund managers, Turning Point Scotland as training providers and Heriot-Watt university as evaluators. This set in motion £6.5m primary funding from the Scottish Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Fund to increase the reach and ambition of the pathfinder.

Scotland is now on a mission to ensure that all people with the hardest experiences of homelessness across all parts of Scotland get housing first and fast. The pandemic has only asserted the urgency to have Housing First not just at the heart, but at the helm of our recovery from it.

So it’s a pleasure this week to add our warmest congratulations to Turning Point Scotland on the launch of the Housing First Academy bolstered by an online resource to train and support best delivery of Housing First on the ground. This is exactly the right step at exactly the right time in Scotland’s story of Housing First. 

The Academy and resource hub for key workers is both a beacon and a lifeline, a new community of shared ambition and shared practice. And one that can draw on experiences from within and beyond Scotland to inspire current Housing First support workers – and embrace the many hundreds more that will step up to this important role in their area over the coming months and years.