Martin Gavin: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’

Martin Gavin: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’

Martin Gavin

The combined data on the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme is now available covering both April and May, when housing allocations all but stopped. Significant additional pressure across the public and charity sectors, including organisations delivering support to tenants, has been on a scale unseen previously. Homeless Network Scotland manages the Pathfinder and produces the normally monthly Tracker report. Its head of external relations, Martin Gavin, looks at what this latest one tells us.

If there was going to be an ultimate stress test for the scaling up of Housing First in Scotland the events of the past 12 weeks must be it.

The latest Housing First tracker reports are available today – two months’ data published together due to the current challenges and to reduce pressure on those providing the information. The data contained in those reports reveals a moment in time between 1 April and 31 May 2020 that has become the background to everyday life across the world and will remain so, like a fading photograph, for years rather than weeks or months.

Martin Gavin: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’

What data cannot show, but we know, is that partners in housing, social care, local government and third sectors across the five Housing First Pathfinder areas are among the many heroes. Adversity brought out the best in the people who make Housing First work, our support workers and tenants. Teams continued to go the extra mile alongside tenants to provide support in a way that is safe, that suits them and with as much or as little support as needed. This is so impressive not only because of the commitment, ingenuity and compassion on display. On top of delivering Housing First under extraordinary circumstances, providers have also carried out ever-more challenging frontline duties outside of their role in the consortia despite reduced staffing, fewer volunteers and pressure on their resources.

Against unprecedented risk and a significant pause in housing allocation, Pathfinders have supported most people to stay safe, well and ‘at home’. Since initial placements began, 231 of the 261 people who have moved into a home of their own through the Pathfinder are still living in it. Remarkably, during those two months that we were in the grip of this pandemic seven new tenancies started. Tenancy sustainment rates of around 90% continue – Housing First is still working.

Martin Gavin: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’

In the locked down response, services were rapidly stripped back, reviewed and adapted to ensure care remained in place and people’s needs continued to be met. Support was delivered remotely or in person observing strict social distancing outside the home. We have learned a great deal, with both strategic and practical measures now agreed that will enable Housing First to emerge stronger and much more resilient.

Housing First should be not just at the heart of recovery, but at the helm. The Housing First Scotland Recovery Plan published in May frames the impact of what has just happened and points to a way out. A new national Framework, currently the subject of scrutiny and fine tuning from partners and government, will shape the future of Housing First in Scotland. It will include the Pathfinder areas and beyond, challenging us all to embrace an even more ambitious vision for what is possible.

As we slowly emerge from the lockdown, Homelessness hasn’t stopped. Glasgow alone is dealing with 30 new households a week. It is the out-flow into housing that has stalled, meaning it is more important than ever to scale up Housing First at a faster pace, with more determination and greater urgency. We know Housing First is fairer, we know that it works, and in these uncertain times we know that home has never been more important.

Annual membership for Homeless Network Scotland is free between now and 30 September 2020. For more information please email with your contact details to or visit

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