Doug Gibson from the Homeless Network (GHN) reflects on Housing First in anticipation of this week’s major conference.
I regularly feel and/or look like an idiot. There are many reasons for this but for the sake of brevity and reputation let’s focus on one: Housing First.
You see, I’m lucky to have a network of family and friends who take an interest in my life and what I do. In turn, they take an interest in my work.
So they ask what I do.
I tell them I work for a homelessness charity.
They ask what the job entails, what I’m currently working on.
I tell them I’m particularly passionate about the work being done around Housing First.
They ask, “What’s Housing First?”
I excitedly tell them that Housing First is a radical new approach that’s increasingly getting traction in the global response to homelessness.
“Radical, you say,” they say.
“Yes, indeed,” I say as I begin to give them some context. About how we’ve traditionally done things. How we developed a tiered model, or ‘staircase’ model. How people in the desperate position of homelessness would need to prove over time that they were ‘ready’ for a home. How it was all in some sense a complex, marathon game of Snakes and Ladders, giving people every opportunity to fail. Every opportunity to fall back into homelessness, addictions, poor mental health. Every opportunity to get caught in the system, in the experience, and in the dehumanising label: “the homeless.”
They express dismay at this and ask what this new, radical model does differently.
I tell them that Housing First focuses on rapidly getting someone into a safe, secure, long-term tenancy and wrapping them with caring, flexible, indefinite support.
It’s at this point that they look a little nonplussed and I look a lot like an idiot.
Because what I’ve just described is common sense.
It is the solution you would get from a child if you asked them how to help someone who is homeless. And this simple, common-sense solution is the single most effective model to successfully bring people with multiple and complex needs out of homelessness. That has been proven time and again in the significant, credible, still-growing evidence for Housing First.
The questions now are not ones of proof. The questions now are ones of logistics: How do we make Housing First work at scale? How do we embed it in the mainstream response to homelessness in every area of the country? How do we keep it consistent and tight to the core principles whilst recognising the complex social, political, and structural differences of thirty two local authorities?
Luckily, in Scotland we have literally thousands of decent, determined people across every sector working every day (and night) to answer these questions, and to deliver systems and solutions that make homelessness the rare, brief, urgent exception it ought to be.
This week in Stirling over two hundred such people will come together at this year’s sell-out Housing First Scotland Conference to share and discuss all things Housing First; to reflect on the momentum being built but equally on the challenges and doubts that remain.
A busy, exciting day in a busy, exciting time. One that feels like an incredible opportunity for us as a sector – as a society – to work together to transform the way we see and address homelessness.
Housing First is not a magic wand and it is not a catch-all solution. But it will be at the heart of what comes next. This week’s conference is a platform on which to create exactly what that will be.
Scotland is in the spotlight this week as nearly 250 people gather on Tues 26 June 2018 at the Albert Halls in Stirling for the Housing First Scotland conference. Opened by Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing, the day will hear how Scotland has now placed Housing First firmly at the heart of a broader housing-led and homelessness prevention approach.
Housing First means a settled home quickly, then the space and intensive support to address other issues people have. The international evidence tells us it works best for people who are facing severe and multiple disadvantages, including people sleeping rough. It supports people to leave homelessness behind – the system, the experience, the label – for good.
This year, Scotland will begin a steady expansion of Housing First. Many cities across the world have been scaling up successfully, but too few countries have sized up the opportunity to take Housing First to scale nationally. Scotland embarking on this approach will attract international observers and commentators, and it is important that we get it right.
The conference is a key milestone in getting all hands – and views – on deck. On the day:
- Josh Littlejohn, Founder of Social Bite, will launch the Housing First Scotland Fund to kick-start the new approach and deliver Housing First support to hundreds of people across key cities by 2020;
- Patrick McKay, Turning Point Scotland will launch the first Housing First Training Academy which will share and maintain best practice across Scotland and beyond;
- Jon Sparkes, from Crisis UK will reflect on how the work of the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group paved the way for new energy and commitments
Maggie Brünjes, Director of The Homeless Network (GHN) which hosts Housing First Scotland, said:
Our recent collaboration with over 400 people with direct experience of homelessness gave us the clearest message; that most people want housing with support that is right alongside them while they leave homelessness behind. There is no doubt that Housing First is the right way forward, but we need to get it right. Delivering it at the right scale means working together to resolve some of the bigger blocks that stand in our way, and assisting frontline workers with what they need to lead from the front.
Hear more and get involved at:
www.ghn.org.uk #HFScot18 @HFScotland @GHNtweets
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GHN are delighted to be appointed as project managers for the new Housing First Scotland programme. It will be one of the largest in the UK, and will bring hundreds of people experiencing homelessness into secure and supported tenancies. The Corra Foundation will manage the funds, which they have now opened here: https://www.corra.scot/grant-programmes/housing-first-scotland-fund/
It’s been made possible by the phenomenal fundraising efforts of Social Bite. Josh Littlejohn, co-founder said:
“Housing First means that home is the best foundation from which to address any other challenges or disadvantages people face. It means safety and security, and a fresh opportunity for people to build and live their lives as part of a community. I would like to thank the 8,000 people that slept out last December and raised so much money, if it wasn’t for them, this simply wouldn’t be happening.”
The Housing First Scotland Fund is further supported through funding from the Merchants House of Glasgow. Margaret-Ann Brunjes, GHN’s Director said:
“This takes us a signficant step closer to ensuring that people who are braving the most disadvantages are brought into the heart of local communities. The success of this Programme will depend on the very best support being provided by the very best support workers. With a very small caseload, the Housing First approach will be personalised and persistent, flexible and asset-based – getting right alongside people to help them make their house a home.”
Traci participated in a Keys to Learn tenancy sustainment course early in 2018. As well as addressing a number of issues in her own life, Traci attended each day for 10 weeks, and successfully completed the course. She met and was supported by a past course participant who is now a peer supporter of Keys to Learn, and very quickly recognized that her journey and goals were very similar. Realising volunteering with the project would help her gain experience in working with communities, Traci signed up to support future courses. Within a month of completing the course, Traci started an Introduction to Social Care delivered by Glasgow Kelvin College, and supporting a Keys to Learn course in Paisley. The group, who each have similar life experiences to Traci tell us ‘she could run this whole course’ – something we would love to see one day! In recognition of her immense learning and life progressions, Glasgow Kelvin College and GHN have nominated Traci for a Learner of the Year Award.
Jordan has participated in learning and volunteering with Glasgow Homelessness Network since 2014, first joining us through a Keys to Learn tenancy sustainment course. Jordan trained to become a Navigate Peer Advocate, to help others solve their housing and benefits issues, as well as a peer supporter for future Keys to Learn courses. This all helped him realise he wanted to work somewhere that helped people address their issues, which has led him to his current employer – the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Although learning and volunteering has equipped him the experience to get into work, Jordan is still interested in volunteering, especially with projects that are community based. This is why he recently became a Community Budgeting Community Champion – helping communities across Glasgow get ready for the changes to how services will be funded. He states: ‘the things I experienced and learned through volunteering helped me understand who I am and what I want. I would not have had half of the chances I have had if not for volunteering and I would not have become the person I am today. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to meet all of the truly amazing people I have met.’