Housing First gathers pace with ambitious three-year plan

Scotland could be free from the most visible and acute forms of homelessness within three years as the Scottish Government-backed Housing First Pathfinder programme officially ramps up in five cities: Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling.

The initiative is joint-funded by partners including the Scottish Government, The Merchants House of Glasgow, and Social Bite, which runs the Sleep In The Park events.

Housing First provides mainstream housing with wrap-around support as a first response rather than the final step in a long process. It is proven to be a better and more lasting response for people with experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill health. The target is to house 830 people by the end of the Pathfinder programme, and the remaining 27 Scottish councils are shaping up their plans to deliver Housing First in their areas.

The Housing First Pathfinder has been building networks and getting systems in place over the past nine months, with over 50 people already housed through the programme in this warm up phase.

Mick Wright, one of these new tenants, said: “All I can say about Housing First is, it works. Of the guys I knew from the hostel who got a flat, none of them have failed, not one has gone back to being homeless. It’s meant that I can have my kid round and we have a proper relationship. It’s just normal, making a cup of tea or waking up in my own bed – for all this I’m very grateful.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We want to ensure everyone has a safe, warm place they can call home. Our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out how we are working with partners to prevent homelessness and address people’s needs quickly when homelessness does occur. This includes a shift towards a system of rapid rehousing and delivery of the Housing First approach for people with more complex needs. We are currently working with local authorities to finalise 32 Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans so that we can begin to invest £23.5 million allocated to this, deliver lasting change on the ground and ensure better outcomes for people facing the blight of homelessness.”

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of The Homeless Network, which manages the Pathfinder, said: “We are so proud to be part of making Housing First a reality in Scotland, and full of admiration for our partners who are helping to bring about a lasting change. Everyone needs a home, and those that have braved the biggest challenges – and been most disadvantaged by the conditions that create homelessness – need housing first and fast. This is a game-changer, a radical and totally new approach to homelessness in Scotland that is a caring and respectful response we can be proud of.”

Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite co-founder, said: “Housing First is a truly transformative programme that provides a human-centred, kind and compassionate response to the systemic issue of homelessness. We are incredibly proud of our partners who are pioneering positive change. A huge thank you also goes to the thousands of people who have made this possible by taking part in Sleep in the Park, raising funds and the consciousness of the nation.” 

Carolyn Sawers, deputy CEO, Corra Foundation, said: “It’s a privilege to be involved in delivering the Housing First Pathfinder, managing the funds on behalf of the Scottish Government, Social Bite and The Merchants House of Glasgow. It will make a real difference to people in the immediate future, as well as having a lasting impact on the way people experiencing homelessness are supported.

Scotland has become only the third country in the world to fully implement this radical approach to homelessness, proven to be successful in Finland, the only European country where homelessness is falling according to a report released this week by FEANTSA, the body that monitors homelessness across Europe.

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