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Housing First as a solution to ending homelessness

Chris Hancock, Head of Best Practice

There’s been a lot of excitement around our plan to end homelessness. We’ve spoken with a wide range of homelessness experts across the world, including many with lived experience, to produce a plan which sets out all the steps we, as a society, need to take to resolve it once and for all.

Housing First is a prime example of that. Here I explain how it could help.

It’s already a successful model in Finland, Denmark and parts of North America. It’s worked there, and now we’re scaling it up here.

Currently, the UK’s homelessness system mainly sets a series of pre-conditions that must be met before a person is considered for accommodation. People experiencing – or at risk of – homelessness are told “if you stop drinking or taking drugs, then we’ll get you into a shelter, then maybe a hostel” etc. There is huge overlap between trauma, mental health issues, substance misuse and homelessness. Often these are incredibly traumatised people who’ve turned to substances to cope with dire circumstances.

Overcoming multiple issues can be extremely difficult – if not overwhelming – in any situation, let alone for someone without their own space and privacy to do so. Housing First addresses that. The model puts a homeless person into accommodation first, believing that a stable home is the foundation to then overcome other challenges. Results have shown that a person is up to 80 per cent more likely to still be in that accommodation after two years. We work on the front line of homelessness, and this outcome is extremely encouraging.

Over the next 12 months, Crisis will be trialling this approach in a few of the areas where we work, with the support of local authorities. If it works, and we believe it will, then potentially we can expand into more areas. It’s a small step, but a hugely important one.

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