Housing First: Housing-led solutions to rough sleeping and homelessness
Centre for Social Justice
This report, by the right of centre think tank Centre for Social Justice, covers a wide canvas, addressing both the mounting challenge of households (mainly families) who find themselves seeking help from councils under the homelessness legislation, and rough sleepers and other people with multiple and complex needs. The charity Crisis was involved in the project, which was steered by a working group made up of knowledgeable people in the sector and academia.
In relation to statutory homelessness, it argues both for a shift in council practice towards early intervention to stop households becoming homeless, and puts forward a range of ideas to increase the availability of suitable and (genuinely) affordable housing, including reversals of recent Coalition and Conservative government policies on investment in social housing and welfare. These propositions are interesting more because CSJ is making them than because they are particularly novel. I also felt that the section on prevention could have said more about what a different approach by councils might look like in practice, and what changes in national policy and funding might be needed to bring it about.
However, the report reads like what the authors really wanted readers to take away is the case for “Housing First” as an approach to supporting single homeless people with multiple and complex needs. “Housing First” involves placing service users in secure independent accommodation, and providing them with the support they need for their non-housing needs. In contrast, most current provision is based on accommodating service users in hostels and trying to address their other needs to the point they can move on into independent housing. The case is strongly made, and the report contains lots of interesting examples and experience from abroad and the UK. However, I was left wondering whether the evidence base was robust enough to persuade policy-makers and commissioners to adopt a radical, and in first-order terms, costly new approach. The report three times asserts there is “overwhelming international evidence”, but the reference supporting this is to another advocacy document which does not contain, or even reference, any kind of systematic evidence review.
The report could have done with a good edit before publication. Addressing such a wide-ranging and complex subject calls for a simple, clear, structure and narrative. Even as someone who is not a “new reader”, I found the way it hops around between different issues, and between what happens now, the policy background, and proposals for change, not at all easy to follow.