Housing First: Executive Summary

“If it wasn’t for you [Housing First] I’d be on the streets, took me a year to get anywhere and as soon as you came in it happened quickly” - Crisis member 

Housing First is one of the most important innovations in tackling homelessness of the last few decades. It is also highly effective, proven to end homelessness for around 80% of people who it is targeted at. 

In recent years, Crisis has gone from advocating for Housing First and working with politicians and local authorities across the UK, to delivering our own services in London and Newcastle. We know from people with lived experience that Housing First can and does provide a sustainable route out of homelessness. 

During the pandemic, coordinated efforts of the Government and charities meant that thousands of people were helped off the streets and into temporary accommodation, but this was only a short-term solution. Many people have since been forced back to the streets or into unsuitable and unsafe living situations. In order to move away from homelessness for good, people need a secure home of their own.  

Many of the people supported into accommodation during the pandemic, and those who became homeless during the pandemic would need long-term help and support to help end their homelessness. That’s where Housing First comes in. 

We know that Housing First ends homelessness. That’s why Crisis’ Home for All campaign is calling on the Westminster Government to commit to a full rollout of Housing First in England in the upcoming Spending Review.   

The problem

Right now, England’s homelessness system relies heavily on a ‘staircase model’, which starts with emergency options like night shelters and hostels - rather than getting people back into a home of their own as quickly as possible.  

People struggle to access a home of their own until they’re deemed “ready”. But it can be almost impossible to prove you’re “ready” for independent housing while living long-term in somewhere like a hostel or night shelter, or worse still - the streets - which can mean you don’t have the privacy and space to recover from the trauma of homelessness.  

Housing First is for people with a range of support needs, including mental or physical health problems, substance or alcohol use, and who have a long history of homelessness. All these factors can make it difficult for a person to engage with more traditional housing services, and lead to them being trapped in a cycle of homelessness. 

In England, demand for Housing First places far outstrips supply. The Government pledged to end rough sleeping by 2024, but without funding for Housing First, thousands of people will be left without the support they need. 

What is Housing First?  

“I’m more independent. I’m not out on the streets. I am more able to manage my bills and get shopping. I've had to be pushed by my support worker and it’s been helpful’ - Crisis member 

Housing First is an internationally recognised evidence-based approach, which begins with the idea that housing is a human right and prioritises getting people quickly into a secure and stable home, whilst also offering support to help them to keep their home.  

The Housing First approach was first developed in New York by the organisation Pathways to Housing in 1992 and is now being delivered across the world. It has since been widely adopted in the USA and has become central to the national homelessness strategies in Canada, Denmark, Finland, and France, demonstrating widespread success.

Housing First does not require a person to prove their ‘readiness’ for a tenancy by spending time in temporary accommodation. Instead, it provides somewhere permanent to live alongside long-term, specialist support from a dedicated support worker.  The support offered will depend on the needs of the person, and an individual will not lose their home if they disengage with support or take a break.  In order to be successful, a service must adhere to the principles of Housing First

Our services  

Crisis now has two Housing First services operating in London and Newcastle. As an independent charity, our services are funded almost entirely by our supporters.  

In November 2019, Crisis launched its first Housing First service in London. As of April 2021, Crisis was working with 32 members in London – the majority (47%) aged between 25 – 34 years old, with a balance of men and women from diverse backgrounds. In February 2021, we launched our second Housing First service in Newcastle. The team currently supports 10 people, 3 of whom are under 25, and aims to be supporting approximately 80 people by year 3.  

In this video, Bianca, our Housing First Team Manager, explains the impact Housing First can make.  

Influencing policy 

In 2018, Crisis published the Plan to End Homelessness, with a chapter on the role of Housing First in ending homelessness. This report examined the evidence for Housing First, both in the UK and abroad, and made recommendations for the Government for scaling up Housing First. Several of the recommendations made by Crisis have since been adopted into policy by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. 

Crisis provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ending Homelessness. In July 2021, we launched the APPG’s Housing First report: ‘It’s like a dream come true: An inquiry into scaling up Housing First in England.’  
During the event, we heard testimonies from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street. Both advocated for Housing First following the success of pilots in their regions.  


‘The pilot is working, it is a breakthrough, and as a country we need to get behind it and roll it out’ Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands 

‘The pilot is an emerging success story’ Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester 


How you can help


Ending homelessness is within our reach, but only if we work together. Follow our Home for All page and sign up to join our campaign for regular updates. To hear about other ways that you can support our work, get in touch with your Crisis contact.