Every vote is a vote for Housing First

Having gained cross-party support for Housing First in Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland is looking ahead to an online conference taking place next week which will focus on the roll-out of the policy across most council areas from April.

Every vote is a vote for Housing First

Going into May’s Scottish Parliament election, all the Holyrood parties are backing Housing First, which international evidence, and experience in Scotland, proves is an effective method of ending homelessness for people with experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill health.

The policy has been running in six areas across Scotland since 2019 with the support of the Scottish Government. From April, it is set to roll out across most council areas and is the focus of an online conference taking place next week.

The approach provides normal, settled housing for people as quickly as possible rather than at the end of a long process that often fails to prevent or end homelessness and includes a support package tailored to the individual. Across the Pathfinder areas, there have been no evictions in the current programme out of 450 tenancies, with around 90% of those who started a tenancy remaining in their home.

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “At least 8% of the Scottish population has experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. But we are not all at equal risk. Poverty is the main driver, and it is also linked to experiences going right back to childhood. Housing First should be the first response for everyone whose housing need is made much harder by trauma, addictions and mental health problems.

“Housing First has rightly earned cross-party support and has also earned a long-term commitment from the Scottish Government in the 20-year strategy for housing published this week. Why? Because it works. What has been achieved in Scotland is viewed as pacesetting by UK and international colleagues –but it wasn’t easy and this is just the start. Now we need the right and enduring resources and investment aligned at national and local level.”

Patrick McKay, operations director, Turning Point Scotland, said: “Housing First is normal, it’s fairer and it works. If finding answers to society’s problems is the prize for those in government and opposition alike, then Housing First is a gift. In recent years in Scotland, more so since the pandemic began, resolving homelessness has resulted in increased co-operation and an acknowledgment that solving this problem is not impossible, but will take time.

“Turning Point Scotland helped to pioneer the Housing First model in its Glasgow pilot. Ten years on from that project we are ready to get behind the national challenge and help make Housing First a reality as a leading provider of support services.”

Professor Sarah Johnsen of I-SPHERE, an award-winning research team at Heriot-Watt University, said: “To my mind, Housing First works because of four key ingredients. Firstly, by offering long-term security of tenure and support it offers a stable platform, freeing up headspace for residents to think about things other than ‘what happens next?’ housing-wise. Second, the support is truly flexible, changing in type, intensity, how and where it’s delivered as needed. Third, is sticks with people, even after periods of disengagement or blips in recovery, which would typically result in exclusion from other services. Finally, it offers a normal home in an ordinary neighbourhood, with respite from the stigma and potential harms associated with many homeless service settings such as hostels and shelters.”

Housing First was pioneered in the USA during the 1990s working with people who were rough sleeping in New York. In Finland, where Housing First forms an important part of overall housing policy, it has contributed towards making Finland the only European country where homelessness is falling.

The Housing First Scotland Conference titled ‘Branching Out’ takes place on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 March hosted by Homeless Network Scotland in partnership with Wheatley Group.

The conference is an opportunity to hear directly from those responsible for Scottish Government homelessness policy, including an address by Kevin Stewart MSP, minister for local government, housing and planning, and Angela Constance, the minister for drug policy, as well as sector leaders across a day-and-a-half of activities and interactive sessions on three themes.

  1. Firm Foundations: Housing First as an integrated policy priority with shared financial commitment, and shared outcomes. This theme includes the launch of the National Framework for Housing First in Scotland.
  2. Olive Branches: Successful local partnerships are central to the success of the Pathfinder. Learn how local Housing First partnerships have been formed, how they function, why they work and what aspects have been more challenging.
  3. Low & High Hanging Fruit: in theme three we explore the practical lessons learned, the early successes, and some of the growing pains. This theme will help us grow, improve and connect Housing First as it starts up in most Scottish council areas during 2021.

View the conference programme and speakers by clicking here or book a place at one, or all, of the sessions by clicking here.

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