Housing options services are often the first services to which people turn when they are at risk of homelessness. An effective service provides more than just housing: it also identifies and resolves the underlying causes of homelessness, allowing people to stay in their homes, make the transition to a new home more quickly and easily, and preventing future homelessness.

Context

Housing options services are about finding suitable solutions based on each individual’s needs, not whether those individuals fit with particular legislation. It is a service that must be made available to all, as laid out in s.179 of the Housing Act 1996, “Every local housing authority shall secure that advice and information about homelessness, and the prevention of homelessness, is available free of charge to any person in their district.”
 
In 2009, Crisis undertook research using mystery shoppers: No one's priority: the treatment of single homeless people by local authority homelessness services. This research concluded that councils were turning away single homeless people needing help.
 
Housing options services need to be widely and proactively publicised to ensure that people do not become homeless through lack of awareness of advice. This should include assessing where key groups are not accessing the service, and taking steps to engage them.
 

Trailblazers

The Hills Report into Social Housing, published in February 2007, highlighted the success of the ‘housing options approach’ in preventing homelessness. As a result, Communities and Local Government published Expanding Choice, Addressing Need: Addressing Housing Need through the Enhanced Housing Options Approach, in March 2008, which launched the Enhanced Housing Options Trailblazers Programme. Since then, 42 Trailblazers have been established across the country to deliver new, innovative ways of providing housing advice which empowers people and transforms lives. Full details of these, including individual action plans, are available on the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research website.
 
  • For up-to-date information on the Enhanced Housing Options Trailblazer Programme currently taking place for the Greater Haven Gateway, see their first newsletter here. 

Ending rough sleeping – good practice

As part of its strategy, No One Left Out – communities ending rough sleeping, Communities and Local Government appointed 15 community based champions to promote best practice in preventing and tackling rough sleeping through 2009/10. Five of these are champions in the area of Early Intervention and Housing Options, these are:

Providing emergency accommodation - good practice

Homeless Link has produced a number of case studies highlighting the emergency housing responses which authorities have put in place to ensure nobody has to sleep rough in their area. We also interviewed housing options teams to better understand how they respond to single homeless people who seek their help, for example by exploring how they make referrals and the joint protocols they may have with neighbouring authorities. Read the findings on our Emergency Accommodation project page.

Resources

  • Crisis is currently working with Communities and Local Government to provide advice and assistance to local authorities around the country in order to develop their private rented sector access services specifically for non-priority homeless people. In October 2009, they published a set of key principles for private rented sector access schemes, which are available here. You can also see their dedicated website on the PRS, which acts as a portal to good practice guidance, model documentation and research from across the sector by clicking here.
  • Stonewall Housing has produced a housing options guide for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people available to download free from their web site. Get it here