Housing First passes 300 tenancies

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

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response to redress disadvantage and 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 GovernmentSocial 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.”

Changes to the Unsuitable Accommodation Order in Scotland

The Homeless Person’s (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2020 – commonly referred to as the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) – makes the most significant change to the Order since it first came into force in 2004.

Originally focused on households containing dependent children and/or pregnant women, the Order legislated for a time limit on placements in unsuitable accommodation, over time reduced from 14 days to 7 days.  

The Order as amended in 2020 extends its scope, meaning that the 7-day time restriction now applies to all people experiencing homelessness.

So what does this mean?

It means that no household can be placed in temporary accommodation for more than 7 days if:

  • It is not wind and watertight, meet minimum safety standards, or is not suitable for occupation by a homeless household
  • It is in a different local authority area and/or too far from the health and education services people use, or not in the locality of a place of employment (considering reasonable public transport links)
  • It lacks adequate bedrooms, toilet and personal washing facilities for the exclusive use of the household
  • It does not have the use of adequate cooking facilities and the use of a living room
  • It is not usable by the household for 24 hours a day
  • It is not suitable for visitation by a child who is not a member of the household and in respect of whom a member of the household has parental rights

A local authority placing a homeless household in accommodation not meeting these requirements for more than 7 days will be a breach of the Order.

Are there any exemptions?

There are a number of exemptions to the Order in relation to particular homelessness situations, particular types of accommodation, and the particular situation in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic.  These exemptions include situations where:

  • the household became homeless as a result of an emergency situation such as fire, flood, or other disaster
  • the household has been offered accommodation that is suitable, but requests the accommodation that does not meet the requirements
  • the accommodation is used wholly or mainly to provide temporary accommodation to people who have left their homes as a result of domestic abuse and is managed by an organisation which (i) is not a public authority or a local authority; and (ii) does not trade for profit
  • the local authority has secured that the accommodation has been made available and services relating to health, child care or family welfare are provided to people accommodated there

the accommodation made available (i) is shared tenancy accommodation which is shared, small-scale and of a good standard; (ii) consists of community hosting where the homeless household stays for a short period of time in a spare bedroom in the home of a community member; or (iii) is rapid access accommodation which offers emergency temporary accommodation for rough sleepers which consists of a bed, safe space, on-site homelessness and support assessments, and support to access specialist support for residents

  • a person in the household has symptoms of coronavirus and the household requires to isolate (expires on 31 January 2021)
  • the accommodation is required to provide temporary accommodation to ensure that a distance of 2 metres can be maintained between a member of the household and a person who is not a member or the household in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (expires on 31 January 2021)
  • a local authority is unable to make a suitable placement as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the supply of temporary accommodation in the area (expires end Dec 2020)

Comment on Scottish Government homelessness statistics

Maggie Brunjes, Chief of Executive of Homeless Network Scotland:

“We know homelessness is not always prevented or responded to quickly enough and today’s figures from 2019/20 show there is still work to do, despite such a determined policy environment in Scotland. 

The system itself is outdated and too often doesn’t reflect what actually works and what matters. This is changing but change on the ground can be slow and the pandemic has heaped uncertainty onto an already complex problem. 

“The causes of homelessness are predictable and most often rooted in disadvantage, which restricts people’s options. The figures also highlight housing supply and housing access issues and increasing the supply of suitable homes for families and individuals is pressing.  

“Effective prevention can stop homelessness before it starts and a top-level group is working on how we can get better at this. If someone’s homelessness is not prevented that person should be accommodated quickly in normal, settled housing with the right support – this is the focus of Scotland’s rapid rehousing and Housing First approach.” 

“The statistics released today do not include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on homelessness: the ‘overnight’ success in lifting people out of rough sleeping, a ban on evictions and urgent measures by charities, councils and government to plan ahead for this winter. Nor do they fully reflect the first year of Scotland’s ground-breaking rapid rehousing plans coming into effect. However, the figures are a reminder that the big, structural systems change needed to end homelessness, which is well underway, must continue at pace.” 

Full details are available on the Scottish Government website here

Human Rights and No Recourse to Public Funds Consultation

Some people are more exposed to a range of trauma and harm as a result of the circumstances they were born into. Some of the most harrowing experiences are lived by people from parts of the world where they are no longer safe and who ask from Scotland a place of safety, peace of mind and the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to good use. 

For others from across Europe who want to make Scotland their home, we can protect them from homelessness, exploitation and destitution by enabling the advice and support to formally settle here and to get on with building and living their lives. 

Together, we can create a helping environment instead of a hostile one. This is our ambition, and it is shared by the Everyone Home collective, Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). We have agreed to work together to develop a human rights-based pathway to safe accommodation and support for people who are destitute with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

Having no recourse to public funds is for most people a temporary experience. We have developed a route-map which aims to mitigate the damaging impact of the experience of having no recourse to public funds. 

Until the end of September 2020 we are consulting widely on this route-map. We need your unique insight and feedback so that we can improve and deliver this ambitious new approach. Together, we can end destitution in Scotland. 

You can respond to our consultation here or by contacting us directly: 

0141 420 7272
0783 443 7185 
Join the conversation on social media at #EveryoneHome 

Our Impact: Connect, Learn & Act on Homelessness

Our latest Impact Report sets out the work undertaken by Homeless Network Scotland in the first half of 2020. It goes without saying that the circumstances over the spring and early summer were exceptional. We entered the year with a clear focus on our priorities but by March, like everyone, we faced the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown.

The realities of the public health crisis have already made us reassess our understanding of what it is possible to achieve in terms of ending homelessness in Scotland – and shown how quickly that can be achieved. It also brought into focus what Homeless Network Scotland can continue to contribute under such challenging circumstances – to create, contribute to and maintain positive impact.

In the months to come, going into autumn and then winter, the challenge is to accurately assess how to maintain some of the positive progress that has been made so far, while protecting the principles that underpin Scotland’s approach to ending homelessness, and must now guide our next steps.

In common with everyone who has been fortunate to continue working throughout the lockdown, our team has learned how to make the most of digital technology, hosting webinars and communicating regularly [with] through social media while making improvements to our digital presence and ensuring that this technology is the best that it can be in these times of remote working.

This, and other organisational learning amassed over the period will play an important role in the ways in which we connect, learn, and act alongside others to increase our collective impact going forward. We hope you enjoy looking over this Impact Report for the first six months of 2020 and trust you will contact Homeless Network Scotland with any ideas or inspiration you take from it.