On 5 September 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published the third interim report of the Housing First Pilots’ evaluation. It is based on interviews and focus groups across the three Pilots (Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, and the West Midlands) and includes a fidelity review examining their adherence to the Housing First principles that was overseen by Homeless Link’s Research Team.
The Pilots have accepted 1,286 people into their programmes, 998 of whom were being housed and/or supported at the end of November 2021. Nearly all service users (96%) had experience of rough sleeping, with most also having a disability, depression and/or anxiety, and recent drug use.
The report demonstrates many of the successes in the Pilots’ abilities to support those with multiple disadvantage through its focus on providing non-conditional, holistic support led by service users. Staff members taking the time to develop open, honest and trusting relationships has led to a range of positive benefits for those for whom other services have not been effective.
Most residents (76%) had been in their housing for between six months and three years. Reports of people being able to honestly discuss their fears and past traumas were common, and benefits included reducing substance misuse, improved mental and physical health, and increased integration into local communities. One client explained:
Housing First is a support network I’ve never had. It’s better than any service I’ve ever had. They seem to have it down, treat you as an individual and really see you that way. It’s made really easy for me.
The report also identifies the importance of ongoing support with no end date, with few residents ‘graduating’ from services – a trend reflected in the findings of our recent research into reducing, changing, or ending Housing First support.
The Pilots’ successes have, nonetheless, not been without challenge, particularly due to the lack of affordable accommodation. Despite the services’ enormous efforts to develop new partnerships and avenues for identifying suitable properties, some clients are still waiting many months to be housed. Struggles in accessing mental health services, especially for those with dual diagnoses, also highlight the need for systems change.
We welcome the report as an important learning opportunity and demonstration of Housing First’s enormous potential for supporting and housing those with multiple disadvantage, whom other services have been unable to engage. Furthermore, we are delighted that the funding uncertainty at the time of the reports’ writing has been alleviated. The Government’s recent commitment of £13.9m to extend the Pilots through to 2024, with plans for support to 2025 through the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) programme will enable people to continue to receive much-needed support.
We look forward to hearing more about the enormous positive outcomes this programme can achieve, and translating our learning into a national roll out of Housing First, so that we can be sure the approach is available to everyone who needs it across the country.