Housing First is an approach to ending homelessness through housing and support provision. It prioritises access to permanent housing with tailored, open-ended, wraparound support for the resident that emphasises choice and control. The intensive support is free from conditions, apart from the willingness to sustain a tenancy. Individuals are not required to be housing-ready before moving in to their home; rather, secure housing is a stable platform from which to address other issues.
It focuses on a specific group of people with histories of repeat homelessness, very complex needs, experience of multiple disadvantage and for whom other services have not been successful in ending their homelessness. Evidence shows that the model helps these people housed and helps them to make improvements in their health, wellbeing and social and economic integration.
As awareness of the Housing First model and its apparent success has become widespread, more housing associations have started to get involved and others are considering how they might offer the service.
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There is no unified national policy around Housing First. According to Housing First England, mostly local authorities or voluntary sector providers develop the services locally. The approach can be funded through local authority commissioning, other statutory funding sources (such as public health and adult social care), or non-statutory funding such as trusts, foundations and philanthropy.
Because of these differences in service development and funding, we wanted to explore how the model works in the social housing sector. So we carried out research to investigate the role of social housing landlords – specifically housing associations – in using the Housing First model.
This research is of use to, among others, commissioners looking to develop Housing First or diversify their homelessness relief offer, the government when considering policy development on the approach, homelessness organisations examining the implementation of the model, and housing associations who are developing Housing First projects.
We found that housing associations considered Housing First an attractive model because it aligned with their organisational objectives, notably on addressing all forms of housing need, and included fully funded support.
Our main recommendations for delivering Housing First from the research are:
We have been working with Housing First England on how to support social landlords to deliver Housing First. Throughout 2019 and 2020 we sat on their social housing steering group and have held joint webinars with them on Providing Housing First as a social landlord and Delivering housing management as a Housing First social landlord.
We have also fed into Housing First England’s resources for social landlords.
We are co-running a social landlord forum with Housing First England, for social landlords to meet quarterly to share practice experience of delivering Housing First. Please let us know if you would like to sign up for this forum.
As part of our membership of the Housing First England social housing steering group, we signed a joint statement with Housing First England, the National Federation of ALMOs, Crisis and others, to call for investment in Housing First to be included in the government’s plans for national recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. We asked the government for sustainable funding to ensure that Housing First can be part of the wider plans to end rough sleeping nationally and ensure no return to rough sleeping for those affected by the coronavirus crisis. These asks formed part of our plan for housing's role in social and economic recovery from coronavirus.
In 2021 we also fed into the Centre for Social Justice report on what it will take to roll out Housing First for those who need it, part of a programme of research exploring the role Housing First can play in meeting and sustaining the government’s target to end rough sleeping.
We also sit on the APPG for Ending Homelessness. In 2020-21, the APPG ran an inquiry into how to scale-up Housing First across England. We submitted our research as evidence to this inquiry and made representations during the APPG sessions.