Homeless man who lost 21 tenancies ‘saved from brink of death’ by Housing First
At the age of 38, scaffolder’s labourer, Gary, has had and lost 21 tenancies.
Mental health and addictions issues repeatedly saw him unemployed, destitute and sleeping rough on Glasgow’s Renfield Street.
Now a new approach to tackling repeat homelessness amongst people with chaotic lives is helping Gary break this destructive cycle, improve his health and stabilise his life.
Housing First in Glasgow finds people secure tenancies and provides intensive support to help them maintain their new homes and engage with health services. This holistic approach also aims to help people learn new skills, develop positive pastimes and build a secure future.
Gary said: “The Housing First team saved my life. They saved me from the brink of death. Without them I would not have seen Christmas.
“This is the most stable my life has been and I’m doing everything in my power not to go back on the streets again. I’m doing the hard work to improve my health and the support package is a lifeline for me. I’ve had to change my whole lifestyle and it’s been a real adjustment. I’ve had to learn things from my support workers like budgeting and checking the use-by-dates on food when we go shopping.
“I’ve had 21 houses and walked away from them all. If you just give folk houses and leave them, they’ll just become homeless again. The support is vital. It is working for me - I know I have a safety net and that my support workers are always at the end of the phone if anything goes wrong.”
Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership commissions the Salvation Army to provide intensive support for Housing First tenants. Help is available from everything from applying for benefits, registering with a GP and dealing with utility companies. An emergency helpline number is also available overnight – in case tenants need assistance.
So far, almost 250 people in Glasgow have new homes and wraparound support thanks to the city’s Housing First programme in partnership with the cities housing associations who provide people with homes.
Gary said: “I want to lead a ‘normal’ life whatever that is. I have my wee house and I want to get back to work. I have to put a lot of effort into keeping what I’ve got now and I know it will be an ongoing battle. My support worker has helped me build positive relationships with positive people. I play football twice a week and love going fishing. And I’m due to start a woodworking course soon. I’m happy, I’ve just bought myself a new nice new bed and I can actually sleep here because I feel safe. I’m looking forward to Christmas and feeling really hopeful about the future.”
Housing First is a rapid rehousing approach to tackling homelessness amongst people with complex needs such as mental health or addiction issues. It turns conventional homelessness practice on its head. Previously people were supported to tackle complex needs in a bid to become “tenancy ready”. New thinking concludes that housing should be provided rapidly and be supplemented by intensive support to address health issues and tenancy longevity.
Councillor Mhairi Hunter, Glasgow’s convener for health & social care, said: “Housing First is helping people in Glasgow sustain their tenancies and break the cycle of repeat homelessness.
“The intensive support provided alongside the tenancy acts as a vital safety net for vulnerable people with complex needs. It is helping people learn the life skills needed to run a home such as budgeting and food shopping as well as helping them deal with utility companies, register with a GP, access benefits and attend health services.
“I’m delighted to hear it is working well for Gary and I wish him all the very best in his new home.”