The future for Shared Spaces

Claire Frew, Homeless Network Scotland

Since I joined the sector in 2004, congregate supported accommodation has played a big part in our common responses to homelessness. While some of the provision has changed over time, questions about its purpose as a response to homelessness, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, have remained. The policy shift to a nationwide focus on Rapid Rehousing and Housing First is the first time I really remember fundamental questions being asked about what we are trying to accomplish.

This new policy agenda has seen our efforts focused firmly on providing people with their own safe, secure homes as quickly as possible. And through Housing First this includes people who experience homelessness alongside trauma, mental ill health, and substance misuse; people who might otherwise have been spending time, sometimes long periods of time, in supported accommodation. As we continue to deliver rapid access to mainstream housing and, based on Housing First principles we reject the belief that people need to spend time in supported accommodation to become ‘housing-ready’, we were pleased to bring the sector together to think through what we offer to the small number of people whose needs cannot be met in mainstream housing, even with Housing First support.

The Shared Spaces research project offered an opportunity for us to start asking some big and challenging questions, knowing that while we might not always be able to answer them definitively, that we’d at least move a step forward. The research fieldwork took place during 2021 and at Homeless Network Scotland we offered as many opportunities as we could for people to come together to ask questions and share their views. As always, the position we have reached today is stronger because of the sheer number of people who took the time to get involved.

So what did the research find?

That the common circumstances where mainstream housing may not be possible or preferable are when people have a range of overlapping needs such as mental ill health, physical or learning disability, and experience of criminal justice. This is linked to the recent interim evaluation of Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder which found that Housing First is not successful for people who lack the capacity to understand the terms of tenancy agreements, people who have very high healthcare needs, and people who don’t want Housing First.

That key features of supported housing include that it is self-contained, maximises security of tenure as a settled rather than temporary housing option, has a culture of rights and independence, offers skilled and flexible support, is delivered in a core & cluster model, is small, and is integrated in the community

That in terms of scale it is estimated that between 2% and 5% of people assessed as homeless would benefit from this type of settled housing option. This would be equivalent to 550 to 1400 people nationally.

In response to the research findings, our next task is to develop a transformation programme that moves us away from shared, supported accommodation to meet temporary accommodation duties, toward health and social care led supported housing as a settled housing option for a small number of people using homelessness services who need or want long term care on-site.

This will require significant thinking about the role of Health and Social Care Partnerships, resources, and commissioning. But it’s the next part of the transition to rapid rehousing that we look forward to completing.