Five cities to lead three-year Housing First Pathfinder initiative

Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling have been selected to lead the Scottish Government’s three-year Housing First Pathfinder programme, Scotland’s inaugural ‘Housing First’ Summit will hear tomorrow.

With the aim of ending rough sleeping in Scotland for good, the Housing First initiative provides permanent housing as a first, rather than last, response for people at the sharpest end of homelessness.

Highlighting what can be achieved if government, councils and charities work in partnership to make this new approach successful will be the message to some of the country’s top housing, social care and voluntary sector professionals attending Scotland’s inaugural Housing First Summit in Dundee tomorrow.

Organised by the Homeless Network, the event will hear housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP, leading academics in the field and people with first-hand experience of homelessness to explain why Housing First is so effective at reducing rough sleeping.

Mick Wright has already moved into a Housing First flat as part of the early stages of the programme after experiencing homeless on-and-off for nearly a decade.

He said: “Having a home rather than just a temporary roof over my head has transformed my life. The stability let me get the help I need with issues that led to me becoming homeless. It used to be that you had to completely sort yourself out, jump through all kinds of hoops before you could get a home, and that’s not easy when you’re struggling to cope. I ended up walking the streets or in B&B’s, just bouncing around the system and was vulnerable.

“Housing First has given me a secure base. My boy is able to come to my house, I pay bills, I feel on top of things and can move forward and feel hopeful for the first time in years – I even have a welcome mat at my front door, it’s my home and I’m proud of it.”

Kevin Stewart MSP said: “There is a sense of optimism in Scotland that we have an opportunity to make significant, lasting progress towards ending homelessness. Core to this progress will be the acceleration of rapid rehousing and Housing First, to which we’ve committed £23.5 million from our £50m Ending Homelessness Together Fund and the Health portfolio.

“Housing First recognises that a settled and safe place to call home – with tailored support and someone to get alongside you – will better help people to leave homelessness behind, and to build and live their lives.

“There are deeper and longer challenges in housing and homelessness which we will continue to address. But for our most vulnerable people experiencing the sharpest end of homelessness, Housing First is the kind and necessary response that we can choose to make happen now.

“Like all our partners attending this event in Dundee today, I believe that we have an opportunity to end rough sleeping for good in Scotland. Ramping up Housing First over the next three years is critical to achieving this goal.”

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of the Homeless Network, believes this is a pivotal moment.

She said: “Rough sleeping is not inevitable and could be ended with the right choices and investment. Scotland’s Housing First programme represents an opportunity to end it for good if government, councils and charities continue to work effectively together. We must also keep listening to and learning from people with first-hand experience of homelessness.”

Housing First will be a vital part of all homelessness services across the country and the 32 Scottish local authorities must submit their plans for how it will work in their area to the Scottish Government by December 2018. The five cities across Scotland leading this new approach include the two that experience the most acute homelessness and rough sleeping challenges. Homeless households in both Glasgow and Edinburgh spend more than double the number of days annually in temporary accommodation compared to other local authority areas.

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