‘Housing First works’ – but government funding currently runs out next year
Housing First – an approach to entrenched rough sleeping already used to huge success in other countries, including Finland and the United States – has been undergoing pilots in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham since 2018.
It works on the basis that once someone has a long-term roof over their head, support for complicated problems such as physical or mental health illness, addiction or offending – and in many cases more than one of the above – can then successfully follow, for as long as is needed.
According to a new report by a cross-party group of MPs, as well as the mayors for each of those city regions, homeless charities, international experts and scores of people helped by it, Housing First simply works ‘exceptionally’ well.
round 90pc of those it sees with the most complicated, overlapping problems end up staying in accommodation permanently via the programme, including in Greater Manchester.
The evidence from the three pilots and from its own inquiry over the past few months, says the report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on ending homelessness in its conclusions, is ‘resoundingly clear’.
“For people that have the highest and most serious support needs compounding their homelessness, Housing First works.”
It also saves money, as it cuts back on A&E attendances, welfare, police call-outs, criminal justice costs and social service demand. Yet it faces a ‘cliff edge’: government funding runs out in 2022.
As a result, both those running and being helped by the programme are now living with ‘a huge uncertainty’, warns the APPG, urging the government to extend funding into the future and roll the programme out nationally.
“The government has already demonstrated a welcome understanding of Housing First by investing in three city-region pilots in the Autumn Budget of 2017,” it says.
“However, this funding is due to end in 2022, and as it stands, there is no clarity about how the 1,100 Housing First places across these pilots will be financed past this point.
“This has generated a huge amount of apprehension and uncertainty for both providers and clients of these services.”
A commitment to ‘scale up’ the programme nationally is also ‘urgently needed’, warn the MPs. Charities estimate around 16,000 Housing First places are required across England.
The inquiry into Housing First was partly prompted by the success of ‘Everyone In’, government’s attempt to accommodate rough sleepers across the country during the pandemic.
The report tells ministers they now have a ‘unique’ opportunity to build on what they did last year, which it says proves that with enough ‘political will’ and bold thinking, success is possible.
Other rough sleeping programmes, including the government’s Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme, are playing their part too, says the report. But, partly because they are done on a short-term basis, they ‘fall far short’ of what is needed.
Estimates by the think-tank Centre for Social Justice suggest that for every £1 spent on Housing First, £1.56 is saved. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates it would save the public purse £200m a year within two years of being rolled out nationally.
Andy Burnham, who made rough sleeping a priority after taking office in 2017, says ‘there is no doubt about it – Housing First works’..
Meanwhile for people with the most complex issues, temporary accommodation ends up being about ‘managing’ a person’s homelessness, rather than ending it.
“I call on the government to embrace the results of the pilots and to turn Housing First into a permanent, national scheme,” he adds.
“Housing First is not just a good housing policy. It is also a good health policy. Just one night sleeping rough does considerable harm to people’s physical and mental health.
“We have seen how Housing First in Greater Manchester has helped people with severe health problems to recover. Sajid Javed set up these pilots as Communities Secretary, and deserves great credit for that, but I hope he will now use his position as Health Secretary to support Housing First and secure the health gains it has achieved.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, echoes that view.
“Housing First works,” he agrees, adding that it provides a ‘solid foundation’ for those who have been stuck in homelessness for years, struggling to address trauma, addiction or mental health issues.
“Evidence from these three city regions and around the world shows that Housing First is the most effective approach to ending the homelessness of people with complex needs.
“It is unthinkable that the pilots could be stopped from providing that vital support to over a thousand people. Now is the time to expand Housing First across England and make it accessible to more people, not fewer.”
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Source: Manchester Evening News, 20th July 2021