Housing First passes 300 tenancies

Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder has created more than 300 tenancies with an additional 50 added since April, the most recent monitoring report has revealed.

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is made harder by experiences such as trauma and addiction. The Pathfinder launched officially on 1 April 2019, supported by housing providers across the country with Wheatley Group leading, and with funding from the Scottish Government, Social Bite and Merchants House Glasgow.

Figures for August 2020 are the second highest so far in terms of new tenancies started, with 21 people moving into their own home and a total of 306 tenancies started. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire joint Housing First consortium marked 55 tenancies created, almost half their target of 120.

The key indicator of ‘tenancy sustainment’, which shows how many people kept their tenancy, remains high over the full first year of the Pathfinder, this month at 87%. This compares favourably to international benchmarks for tenants who often have trauma and long-term homelessness as part of their life experience.

Of the 40 tenancies that have ended during the Pathfinder, 19 were cases where a tenancy could not be sustained successfully – for example, abandoning the flat. The remaining 21 ended for other reasons – sadly, mostly likely to be as a result of the death of the tenant or long-term prison.

Dundee, at 49 tenancies, is just one shy of the halfway mark towards a target 100 tenancies. Housing First tenant, James, from Dundee, was the second referral for the city’s consortium and took up a Housing First tenancy after recovery from addiction and periods of rough sleeping.

James said: “I didn’t want to go into a hostel because I wanted to keep away from that environment and support my recovery, so I stayed on the street. The Housing First team kept in touch with me and really got to know me, and then they helped me find a flat, now it’s just weekly check ins. After about a year I chucked away my sleeping bag when I finally felt sure I was going to be safe and secure in the flat. Housing First has changed my mindset and I’ve built a new life for myself.”

Doug Gibson, partnerships manager at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “Each milestone reached is down to the hard work of tenants, housing providers, support workers and local partners and never more so than in recent months. A significant scaling up of Housing First was signalled by the First Minister in the recent programme for government, which makes the National Framework for Housing First, due to go out for consultation shortly, timely.

“That will provide a clear and comprehensive resource to support every partner and sector starting or scaling up Housing First in Scotland in line with our original objectives and the new urgency brought about as a result of the pandemic.”

Sponsor Mick’s Skydive for Homelessness

In August, new dad, Michael (Mick) Wright, plans to jump out of a plane at 10,000ft to thank Glasgow’s Housing First programme for supporting him as moves on with his life after experiencing homelessness a couple of years ago.

Mick is due to take part in a sponsored skydive to raise money for the Salvation Army.

Glasgow’s Housing First programme provides normal settled tenancies to people with some of the hardest experiences of homelessness, and the Salvation Army undertakes wrap around support to help maintain tenancies and let people get on with building and living their lives.

With underlying health issues including diabetes, Mick experienced homelessness two years ago. He lost his job as a chef after experiencing some additional health issues. “I was really low. I was too proud to go back to my mum and dad’s,” says Mick. “I wanted to try to get a house of my own but I couldn’t afford the rent. I found myself just walking about and I ended up going to homelessness services.”

In September 2018, Mick secured a one-bedroom Housing First flat in Hillington and, since then, hasn’t looked back. Five months after moving into his new home, he met his new partner and they went on to have a baby boy, Freddie, in December 2019. He has also passed his driving test and hopes to find work supporting other homeless people.

Michael said: “Housing First has been amazing for me. It was magic when I got my one-bed flat and I would not have got to where I am now without the help of my Salvation Army case worker. We have moved to a wee house big enough for the baby and I want to get back into work when my health improves hopefully.”

“My life has turned around 360 degrees. I feel better physically and mentally. I’m in a good place now and I couldn’t be happier. My life is full of positive things. I have my two boys, an amazing partner and a new addition to the family. Hopefully now I can drive it will open more doors for me.

“A skydive is something I’ve always wanted to do and I want to give something back to the people who helped me. I will be jumping out of a (perfectly good) plane from over 10,000ft and free-falling at a speed of up to 120mph. Please help me raise funds to fight homelessness.”

Anyone who would like to sponsor Mick can do so at http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mick-wright84

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.

Housing First Annual Check-Up Published

Homeless Network Scotland have published the first annual check-up report on Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder. Martin Gavin, Head of External Relations, picks out the key points.

Reaching the first birthday of the Pathfinder designed to scale up Housing First across six local authority areas in five partnerships, is an important milestone. With 252 tenancies created the programme is being watched with interest from other parts of the British Isles, as well as Europe, the USA and Australia. Scotland is widely, and rightly, viewed as a leader in implementing Housing First.

In Finland, the Housing First model has contributed to the only downward homelessness rate in Europe, with little or no rough sleeping in their capital city. Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland’s Y-Foundation, would have been the keynote speaker at this year’s conference. Instead Juha will join us for a webinar today at 2pm, taking questions and talking about their experiences. Commenting on Scotland’s progress in our first annual Housing First Check Up report, published today, Juha says: “In this work we need beacons of hope like the Pathfinder. The work done in Scotland to upscale Housing First is an inspirational example for many countries.”

The moment that is captured in this quote is built on a solid foundation laid by those innovators who have been sizing up the potential of Housing First for more than a decade in Scotland and supporting tenants to build and live their lives in those intervening years. 

The knowledge that people were spending too much time in temporary accommodation has prompted a focus on rapid rehousing leading to all councils submitting Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans to the Scottish Government. With Housing First sitting as part of this wider approach the focus of the Pathfinder is to challenge and change our current processes in the short and long term, creating new approaches and gradually leaving behind the old; a process of transition that Pathfinders continue press ahead with during the current crisis.

Housing First is still working thanks to the incredible dedication and expertise of support providers up and down the country. And not only in the Pathfinder consortia, also in those council areas testing and operating their own local schemes.

The substantial international evidence behind Housing First points to a tenancy sustainment rate of 80-90%. Tenancy sustainment here has stayed above 90% for the full programme so far. Today’s Housing First Check Up Report also reveals that Edinburgh (98%) and Glasgow (92%) report the highest levels of local tenancy sustainment. A quarter of tenants have now been in their own home for more than a year (58) and 21 people have been at home for more than 18 months.

The time it takes to get someone into a home is also falling. Stirling (-64%) and Aberdeen/shire (-56%) saw the largest reductions of the Pathfinder areas, with Aberdeen/shire showing excellent progress in achieving the 28-day target, with 39% of people moving into their homes within one month. In Dundee we see a steady, sustained increase in new tenancies starting over the period of the report, along with a 41% fall in repeat homelessness.

The report also tells us where challenges exist. In the past year, four people have returned to homelessness, each person will have their own story and we want to understand them all. Sadly, eight tenants have died, with long-term prison sentences accounting for a further six ended tenancies. For the majority of our tenants, underlying health conditions and often a lifetime of multiple severe disadvantage means the odds are stacked against them. This makes the achievement of the 92% (as of March 2020) that remain in their own homes, supported by amazing staff, even more remarkable.

The Pathfinder is also helping us to better understand the impact that scaling up across Scotland will have on this success rate, with all 32 local authorities soon rolling out locally focused Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans. The approach must work for 500 as well as it does for 50.