Housing First marks first year with ambition for ‘rapid scaling up’ and prevention of post-COVID homelessness

A year after Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder was officially launched discussions are taking place between senior figures in housing, homelessness and government to significantly scale-up the programme and prevent anyone returning to the streets who has been accommodated in hotels and short-term lets under current emergency measures.

Housing First marks first year with ambition for ‘rapid scaling up’ and prevention of post-COVID homelessness

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is made harder by other disadvantages and experiences such as trauma or addiction.

At present, most people who were rough sleeping in Scotland’s town, cities and rural locations have been accommodated in hotels and other facilities left empty by the pandemic, around 200 people.

This figure includes those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) whose immigration status prevents them receiving mainstream support and benefits. Exploring options for scaling up Housing First is now a key focus for senior figures in the housing and homelessness sectors, and Scottish Government, as the country starts to think about what comes after this stage of the pandemic.

Homeless Network Scotland, which manages the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder, publishes its first annual check-up report today detailing the impact of the approach in the five Pathfinder areas of Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. It reveals 250-plus tenancies created so far, with more than 90% of people supported to stay in their home.

Sir Andrew Cubie, chair of the Housing First Scotland Advisory Group, said: “I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to the success of the programme in its first full year. Work that continues during these exceptional circumstances, moving us closer to a solution that addresses the most acute forms of homelessness.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “I am delighted the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder has now helped over 250 people into their own homes, providing everyone with the right support for their needs. Partners involved in Housing First are putting the lived experiences of people at the heart of what they are doing and providing evidenced-based responses to do what is right for every person. That is why there has been an amazing 92% tenancy sustainment rate. I’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who has been involved in the Pathfinder on this the first anniversary of its inception.

“In the current public health emergency, it is vital that we all build on the progress made as we seek to meet our commitment to end rough sleeping for good. I look forward to working closely with all involved in the Pathfinder, to ensure Housing First is available to all those who will benefit from it.”

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Y-Foundation, Finland, said: “The current coronavirus has made it crystal clear that the only sustainable solution to homelessness is permanent housing with Housing First. Whatever obstacles and challenges we may come across we have to continue to work together to end homelessness without any hesitation. In this work we need beacons of hope like the Pathfinder. The work done in Scotland to upscale Housing First is an inspirational example for many countries.”

Housing First marks first year with ambition for ‘rapid scaling up’ and prevention of post-COVID homelessness

Maggie Brunjes

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “COVID-19 has brought into focus a little of what it must feel like when shortages, uncertainty and isolation equals ‘normal’ life, which is the case for thousands of people in Scotland. Unfairness is what Housing First seeks to redress because what sits behind it is a quick, personalised and compassionate response – and with more than 250 tenancies created so far, it is working. This is the right time to rapidly scale up Housing First in Scotland and make sure there is no return to homelessness.

“Because of our experience over the past twelve months, captured in the Check Up report published today, our planning for 2020 and beyond will reflect everything we have learned. We have always known that homelessness is unnecessary, now as a society we have demonstrated it by accommodating everyone who wanted to be inside. We can’t allow ourselves to go back.”

Social Bite kick-started the Pathfinder with funds raised by people across Scotland who braved the elements and slept out in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens in 2017 at The Big Sleep Out to help end homelessness.

Jane Bruce, chief executive of Social Bite, said: “Social Bite is so proud of all the work achieved over the first full year of the Pathfinder. Each and every person housed now has the safety and security of their own home and, with committed support alongside them, they are in a vastly improved position to be able to build a good life.

“It’s been amazing to see our skilled partners come together across the pathfinder areas and Scotland to make this project happen. The progress we’ve seen has required leadership, energy and commitment from so many different individuals and organisations and we are immensely proud to be part of this team working to change the system in Scotland for the better.”

Discussions between leaders in the third sector, housing, national and local government and people with lived experience of homelessness are taking place to plan for the end of restrictions.

Maggie Brunjes added: “The mood is resolute. We have unprecedented contact with and access to individuals who may have been rough sleeping, sofa-surfing or in-and-out of temporary flats. All those involved in discussions are determined to build on the progress that has been made since emergency measures were introduced, and to do everything in our power to prevent a return to homelessness for anyone.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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