Scotland’s Housing First programme passes 250 tenancies despite lockdown
The first batch of data received from Housing First in Scotland since lockdown began indicates the programme continued to scale up during March, passing a significant milestone.
The total number of tenancies created by the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme up to 31 March 2020 now stands at 252, with an additional 16 added during the month.
The key indicator of ‘tenancy sustainment’, which shows how many people kept their tenancy, remains high over the full first year of the Pathfinder, this month showing 92%. This compares favourably to USA and European examples for tenants who live with a range of complex needs, often with trauma and long-term homelessness as part of their life experience. Today’s figures put the total sustained tenancies at 232 since launch in April 2019.
Housing First provides ordinary housing as a first step rather than at the end of a process that often fails to prevent or end homelessness. It includes a support package tailored to the individual for those with complex needs and is proven to be a better and more lasting response for people with experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill-health who experience homelessness.
Sir Andrew Cubie, chair of the Housing First Scotland Advisory Group, said: “In these most testing of days it is hard to come across many glimmers of hope, but in the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder Programme we have a bright light. Through an effective and respectful partnership of many, it is great to note that more than 250 people have now moved into a safe, secure home of their own since the beginning of the Programme.
“This has required hard collaborative work which has also led to a higher level of sustainability than anticipated. A great many thanks must go to all partners for their extraordinary ongoing efforts to continue providing security and support to those who need it most at this time.”
Doug Gibson, programme manager for the Housing First Pathfinder at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “Home has never been as important – what today’s figures show is that Housing First in Scotland is still working. The fact that tenancies continue to grow is both impressive and uplifting given the disruption experienced by charities and care providers over the past couple of months, most of whom are frontline service providers as well as members of one of the five local Housing first consortia. On behalf of all partners, as well as our new and existing tenants, I want to thank all of those involved in delivering Housing First for their work to make sure even more people can stay at home.”
Local consortia across the Pathfinder are working hard to find the best ways to continue to offer as much Housing First support to people as possible, under incredibly difficult circumstances. All have moved to offer support remotely as a default, either by phone or online, with decisions being made on a case-by-case basis about when a home visit is required, meeting outside to allow appropriate social distance.
Staff in the Dundee Pathfinder Consortium have been assessing how many people they support are in vulnerable health groups and self-isolating, as well as working to keep track of anyone who has visited a high-risk area or has recently developed COVID-19 symptoms. In Glasgow, mobile phones have been purchased for everyone who didn’t have one and staff in Edinburgh have been responding to ensure people continue to have credit on their phones. Support workers in Stirling have continued to deliver food and medication while the team in Aberdeen facilitate hot meals several times a week.
Doug Gibson added: “Consortium partners will continue to review their approach as the lockdown continues. Many landlords have suspended allocations and mutual exchanges for understandable reasons. But Scottish Government advice indicates that where practical barriers can be overcome, and safety maintained, going ahead with allocations during the pandemic will make properties available for people in extreme need. We are hopeful that progress can still be made.
“It’s hard to say what the eventual impact of COVID-19 will be on Housing First, this is a ‘stress test’ on the programme like nothing we could have imagined. But it will be a priority in the coming weeks and months to ensure Housing First continues to engage with and support those who have yet to move out of homelessness.”