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Radical new approach to homelessness could be game-changer, landmark study shows

12.07.2017 2747 XX

‘Housing First’ shown to be cheaper and more effective than current approach to long-term homelessness

Crisis and the Metro Mayor for Liverpool City Region are calling on local and national policymakers to consider a radical new approach to homelessness that focuses on supporting the most vulnerable and long-term rough sleepers into a home of their own as quickly as possible and providing personalised visiting support. This follows a major study of Liverpool City Region showing how this approach could be more than five times as effective and nearly five times more cost effective than existing services for this group.

The report shows how so-called ‘Housing First’ could deliver savings for cities and local authorities right across the UK, with potential savings for Liverpool City Region estimated at between £1.18 million and £4.02 million per year by 2023/24.

Commissioned by Crisis, with funding from the UK Government and the Housing First Europe Hub, the report looks at the potential costs and benefits of rolling out Housing First across the Liverpool City Region, drawing on existing evidence as well as new statistical analysis and interviews with nearly 100 professionals and 79 people with experience of homelessness.

It shows how the current system is failing some of the most vulnerable homeless people, who often struggle with the rules and conditions, stress, and lack of security in hostels, and who need higher levels of support as a result of poor mental health, substance misuse, physical or learning disabilities or a history of offending (see appendix for firsthand accounts). In some cases, rough sleepers in the Liverpool City Region had had as many as ten hostel placements in the past four years.

Instead, Housing First aims to give people a stable, secure home of their own as soon as possible and to build personalised support around them, placing an emphasis on individual choice, respect and citizenship.

The report shows this approach is likely to be more effective in supporting the most vulnerable and long-term rough sleepers to stay in a rented home compared to existing services in Liverpool City Region, and recommends that it should be used as part of a wider ‘housing-led’ system that addresses the needs of all homeless people and places emphasis on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “This study demonstrates the potential of Housing First to end rough sleeping for people with the most complex needs and will provide valuable evidence for consideration by our new Homelessness Reduction Task Force. Its publication underlines the importance of our manifesto commitment to pilot a Housing First approach and implement the Homelessness Reduction Act.”

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for Liverpool City Region, said: “I’m delighted to support Crisis in the launch of this important report. This is an issue of deep concern to me and to people across the Liverpool City Region. I recognise the enormously valuable work being done by agencies who are trying to tackle this issue, but as this report makes clear, there are limitations to the current system which mean that all too often the most vulnerable rough sleepers are falling through the cracks.

“This report presents an exciting opportunity to change how we tackle homelessness, and I want our City Region to become a world leading example of how with a coordinated approach and the right political will, we can end some of the worst forms of homelessness once and for all. We want to make sure that anyone finding themselves homeless is able to secure a stable, secure and permanent home with support that is right for them.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This report could have wide ranging consequences for the way we tackle homelessness in Liverpool City Region and across the UK. The evidence is clear: for the most vulnerable rough sleepers, the best approach is to support people into a stable home of their own as soon as possible and shape personalised support around them. It sounds obvious, but for these people, the stability and security of their own front door can be a life changing first step towards recovery. It’s about treating people with dignity and respect, and offering them some sense of control over their lives.

“Not only is it more effective, but Housing First also makes sense for the public purse. As this report demonstrates, it has the potential to deliver savings for local councils right across the country, and I urge local and national politicians to heed its findings. Housing First has already been used successfully in Finland, USA, Denmark, France and Canada, while the UK Government committed to piloting such an approach in its election manifesto. In light of today’s evidence, we hope this pledge will be translated into action, with Liverpool City Region an obvious choice for the pilot.”

The report also provides detailed recommendations for the large-scale roll-out Housing First, including the groups it should focus on and how local authorities should commission these services, and estimates costs at £12,607 per person.

Appendix / Case studies

Sharon: “They don’t help you, they put you in a hostel and quite well, they set you up to fail…. I’ve been out of the system now for three years and the more you try to go the right way, the more it comes to you – but, they’ve left me alone now’.

Lee: “I did manage to stop using during the time I got that place – I just kept myself to myself. I was there for about 6 years. I was on Methadone and I didn’t get into trouble with the police or anything, but it was tough because I didn’t get any support while I was in the flat. I didn’t need someone supporting me all the time but when you need some support, you need to be able to see someone but you have to go back to square one with appointments and waiting lists – you have to start again”.

Jeff: “But the likes of me, I’m embarrassed to say it, but I think I do need support.  There’s too many vipers out there who will take advantage of you and if you’re going through problems and you’re at your weakest moment, these people know how to home in on you.  Without the support you’re a deer in the headlights – you’re just going to get knocked down.  And a lot of them don’t get back up”.

Bob: ‘I’m not being funny, I’d rather do jail than go back to the [hostel].  It’s the other people, and what it is – I drink – a bit – but the main ones in the [hostels], they’re mainly crack heads’

Jeff: “When you’ve been doing it [homelessness] for 15 years – I had a hard life as it was – a lot of violence in the family so there’s always been a lot of violence in my life and there’s no hope”.


Notes to editors


For more information, call 020 7426 3853 or email thomas.phillips@crisis.org.uk. For out-of-hours media enquiries please call: 07973 372587 

  1. Research was conducted by Imogen Blood and Associates in partnership with Housing and Support Partnership, HGO Consultancy, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York
  2. The Housing First Europe Hub is a European platform which aims to further develop and promote Housing First in Europe. It is the result of a joint venture with the Y-Foundation. Its focus is on joint activities to share learning and scale-up Housing First. For more info, visit: http://www.feantsa.org/en/network/2016/11/14/housing-first-europe-hub