Rent arrears must not end in homelessness   

Scotland’s Housing First Conference on 31 March, taking place in person once again, will consider how a ‘no evictions into homelessness’ approach could work for tenants and landlords – and if it could be woven through the future Scottish rental strategy as a guiding principle. 

The Scottish Government is consulting on ‘A New Deal for Tenants – rented sector strategy’ that seeks to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the whole rented sector. That consultation frames what is expected to be a popular afternoon breakout at the Housing First conference starting at 1.30pm hosted by Yvonne Gavan, Scottish Government and Ruth Whatling, Homeless Network Scotland. 

A New Deal for Tenants also commits to building on learning from the temporary Covid-19 eviction ban and consider how to further protect tenants from being evicted over the winter period. The conference will explore this theme at a ‘Housing ends Homelessness’ session hosted by Callum Chomczuk, National Director of Chartered Institute of Housing with guests David Bookbinder, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, Lorna Cameron, Horizon Housing Association, Eileen McMullan, SFHA and Nicola McQuiston, Wheatly Group. 

Alongside many other issues, it is an opportunity to unpick how the ‘no evictions into homelessness’ principle, a pillar of the Everyone Home Collective 2022 plan, could operate in practice as part of the rented sector strategy. And specifically asking if it is possible to end to all evictions into homelessness, all year round?  

Maggie Brünjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, which is running the conference, said: 

“There should be no circumstances in Scotland when anyone is evicted with nowhere to go. The Scottish Government’s New Deal for Tenants is an opportunity to pin that principle and consider what practical measures are required to ensure arrangements work for tenants and landlords. 

“The stop on evictions during the pandemic was essential to protect public health and prevent homelessness. That first year of the pandemic may be too much of a one-off to benchmark but we can see a negligible impact on rent arrears. So, the question must follow, ‘Does the threat of eviction influence people in the way that has been long been assumed’.”  

The conference gets underway with A Well-Lit Path, focusing on learning and experiences at the end of Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder that launched officially in April 2019. This panel session is hosted by Sir Andrew Cubie, Chair of Social Bite and former Chair of the Housing First Advisory Group. 

Sir Andrew Cubie said: 

“It is a pleasure to be taking part in this ‘in person’ event. It comes as the Pathfinder draws to a close, providing an opportunity to mark the achievements of this remarkable programme. Just as important is the focus on the future with an ambitious, scaled-up Housing First as part of Scotland’s transition to rapid rehousing, ending homelessness for the vast majority of those who take up a tenancy. In many respects this conference takes place at a pivotal time, making it an essential booking for the many who have contributed up to this point and for those who will take it forward.” 

Delegates are invited to reconnect at the venue after the conference and join colleagues and speakers for a glass of wine or a soft drink and snacks – an informal opportunity to catch up or make new connections. 

Book tickets on the Housing First Scotland website here and sponsorship / exhibitor packages are available to suit a range of budgets and requirements. Please email hello@homelessnetwork.scot to discuss or browse the right option for your organisation here. Follow on Twitter @HFScotland and #HeretoStay 

Housing First Scotland – the help!

Housing First Connect, Know-how, Check-up and Academy. Find out more here about the range of support that is available for everyone involved in branching out Housing First across Scotland.

Housing First Scotland – the help [click video to play]

Housing First Scotland – the help [pdf click image to download]

Webinar for Local Authorities 25 November 2021 [click image to download slides]

Branching Out National Framework – Flip Book [click image to load]

Housing First Pathfinder interim evaluation report published

Housing First Provision can be successfully scaled up in Scotland according to the country’s first evaluation of Housing First, published today (Wed 22 September) by I-SPHERE at Heriot Watt University. The independent Interim Report commissioned by Corra Foundation with funding from Social Bite uses a combination of data analysis and first-hand testimony from tenants, support providers, local authorities and national stakeholders to present the findings in a 90-page report.  

The main headline finding is that the Pathfinder has been highly effective at supporting people with the sharpest experiences of homelessness to stay in their homes. At the end of June 2021, by which time 531 people had been housed, the Pathfinder had achieved an overall 12-month ‘tenancy sustainment rate’ of 84% and 24-month rate of 82%. 

Professor Sarah Johnsen from I-SPHERE, who co-authored the report with Dr Janice Blenkinsopp also from I-SPHERE in partnership with Matthew Rayment of ICF Consulting, said: 

“The housing retention rates achieved by the Pathfinder to date are particularly impressive given the additional challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.  Many lessons have been learned regarding what helps and hinders Housing First delivery and these will be invaluable as Pathfinder services are mainstreamed and the approach is rolled out more widely across Scotland.” 

Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, programme managers for the Housing First Pathfinder, said: 

“Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder has been the shining light in the homelessness sector for over two years, achieving results in line with international best practice and half of that time during a pandemic. It’s not been easy, and many lessons have been learned, but this interim evaluation demonstrates that Housing First works, and it works thanks to the tenacity of Housing First support workers, political commitment at national and local level, buy in from key housing associations — along with the opportunities created to connect and learn together. And it works because people themselves took a chance on Housing First to end their own experience of homelessness.

“As we head into the final six-months of the pathfinder almost all parts of Scotland are starting up or scaling up Housing First. The Pathfinder has demonstrated that the approach is resilient and sustainable even under the most demanding circumstances, and this is a hugely important legacy. Our thanks to Professor Johnsen and colleagues for producing this detailed, insightful and much anticipated report.” 

This report is the first part of an ongoing evaluation and monitoring programme being undertaken by I-SPHERE at Heriot Watt University. Future evaluation outputs will document learning during later stages of Pathfinder delivery, including during the 2021/2022 transition period when Pathfinder services are being mainstreamed in those local authority areas.