Nationwide awards £50,000 to Scottish youth homelessness project

A pioneering project to prevent and resolve homelessness among young care leavers in Scotland has been awarded £50,000 funding to expand its reach.

The Nationwide Building Society shortlisted a number of projects, asking members to vote online for the winners of a series of community grants.

As a result of the vote, £50,000 is being awarded to the UK’s first Housing First for Youth project, designed and implemented in West Lothian through a partnership between the youth homelessness charity Rock Trust and Almond Housing Association.

Five young people leaving the care system have already been given fully furnished, permanent tenancies with Almond Housing Association in Livingston and provided with high intensity support from the Rock Trust, to manage their own households and cope with living independently. Now the funding from the Nationwide will enable Almond HA and the Rock Trust to support more young care leavers, aged 16-18, into homes of their own.

Rock Trust CEO Kate Polson

What makes the support unique is the fact the tenancies are permanent, and unconditional, so young people don’t need to leave once they have achieved independence. Since the project began, 100% of those involved have sustained their tenancies.

Scottish Government data (2016) shows that at least 21% of young people become homeless within five years of leaving care. Some experts suggest this figure could be as high as 30–50% due to unreported homelessness.

Many young people leaving care may have already experienced significant trauma, instability, multiple moves and a lack of security throughout their early life. Temporary accommodation becomes an extension of their childhood experiences and does not enable them to move forward, and the staircase model in which they are asked to prove their ‘readiness’ for a permanent tenancy, simply doesn’t work for them.

The pilot scheme, which started in September 2017, is the UK’s first and only Housing First for Youth project. It is hoped that by providing evidence of its success, the model can be scaled up nationally, and ignite real change in the field of youth housing and homelessness.

Rock Trust CEO Kate Polson said: “This funding from Nationwide will have a significant impact on our project. Not only will we be able to change the lives of more young people, we will be able to increase the breadth and quality of evidence gathered. This will enable us to continue to encourage uptake of the Housing First for Youth model as a stable and effective housing option for young people.”

George Webster, CEO of Almond Housing Association

George Webster, CEO of Almond Housing Association, said: “This very generous grant from the Nationwide Building Society will allow us to further develop our joint work with the Rock Trust and present more young people with life changing opportunities. I hope in time this model will be replicated and help more care leavers to rebuild their lives and enhance their futures.”

Garry Samson, Nationwide’s regional director, added: “One in five people in Scotland have been homeless, or have experienced family or close friends without a home of their own, so it’s imperative that we do something about this. Helping people into homes of their own is at the heart of what we do as a building society, which is why we’re making funding available for local housing projects. In fact, we’re making £22 million available over five years across the UK to do just this and ensure everyone has a place fit to call home.”