Housing First – just one way we help tackle and prevent homelessness

According to Homeless Link’s latest figures, 4,751 people are estimated to sleep rough on the streets of England on any one night. The Government has pledged to end rough sleeping by 2027 and at Riverside, we are committed to help achieve this.

We are the third largest provider of Homelessness services in England. We have the expertise, track record and scale to make a significant impact. Our Corporate Plan shows our commitment to developing services which tackle and prevent the rise of homelessness, with proven solutions and new models, including Housing First.

Housing First supports homeless people with multiple and complex needs, and histories of entrenched/ repeated rough sleeping. Housing and support are separated, with customers offered a stable and independent home, followed up by intensive and personalised support to help sustain tenancies.

Housing First undoubtedly has a part to play in ending homelessness, but it works best as part of a wider strategy, linking with hostels and floating support. Riverside has experience in delivering a number of Housing First-type models, including via an existing service in Manchester and another in Kent, which is currently being launched. Here, two frontline colleagues from these services tell us about their experience of tackling and preventing homelessness through Housing First.

Doug Hesketh, Support Worker, Newbury House

Newbury House in Manchester provides 21 units of accommodation, housing some of the most entrenched rough sleepers in Manchester.

Even with the complex nature and backgrounds of our customers, we have successfully supported former long-term street homeless people maintain their tenancies. Support workers’ provisions cover a wide spectrum of issues affecting our customers’ lives. We also provide intensive support with regard to harm reduction, including entry into detox programmes.

One of our outstanding successes involves a 69-year old man who had lived in a dilapidated tent for two years. Suffering from brain damage and severe alcohol addiction, he is now settled into one of our dispersed tenancies and receives daily visits from a support worker. He regularly attends medical check–ups, has a healthy diet and a reduced alcohol intake. He takes a pride in his home and sees his retirement home. The team view him as a friend and he often calls to the office for a chat and a hot drink.

I believe we are making a huge difference to help tackle the epidemic rise in homelessness, especially with individuals who have been entrenched for a number of years and I feel privileged to be able to do this kind of work.

Donna Lee, Service Manager, Regents House

We won the contract to deliver a Housing First pilot in Medway, Kent which started in June 2018. It’s a new and exciting approach for us. We spoke to colleagues from Newbury House to find out how it’s been going and plan to visit soon to share ideas and best practice.

We are working with a local housing provider to find accommodation. Our biggest challenge will be convincing them to accept our customers as tenants in their properties. These are some of the most entrenched homeless people who have been through services multiple times and are known to most providers. It’s going to be tough but we’re determined to get them on board with this new approach.

We already work with different agencies and partners as part of supporting people in a hostel environment. This is going to be even more important for Housing First as the customers we’ll be working with won’t be surrounded by 24-hour support; they will be in their own homes.

Our hostels do some great work and we have many success stories. But some people simply can’t cope with a shared living environment and have been in and out of hostels for years; some even preferring to sleep on the streets. These are the people we need to target for Housing First. I know it will be challenging and we may not succeed with everyone, but it will be an addition to our homelessness pathway, providing new options for people that have tried everything and still cannot get off the streets. It may turn out to be just what they need.

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