I've spent most of this morning listening to a session hosted by Campbell Tickell regarding the Housing First pilots and the lessons learnt so far.
It was a great mix of hearing powerful personal stories from clients and the difference Housing First has made in their lives (particularly compared to other approaches they tried previously), those responsible for operating the pilots in each of the three regions (West Midlands Combined Authority, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region) and Campbell Tickell on the findings from their evaluations.
I'm sure most of you reading know about those schemes, but for those of you who don't, Housing First is a model based on a stable home and wraps around open-ended support without conditionality. It has worked well in the USA and Finland. The speakers highlighted the importance of people having an understanding of what Housing First is (and isn't) and understanding the language of the scheme.
Although I knew that the programme requires and involves a multi-agency approach, it was really interesting to see visually from the various slides just how many organisations and different types of organisations across each region are involved and actually how many roles there are in each local area to operate the programme. I hadn't quite appreciated the role of psychiatrists and psychologists in this. The importance of choice for individuals can also be a real differential factor for success.
The statistics clearly show the value and long-term success of the pilots helping individuals (often with multiple complex needs) maintain sustainable tenancies, particularly compared to other programmes. Although costs are currently higher (it is hoped that these will reduce over time as lessons are learnt, the programme is more established and has greater economies of scale), the wider benefits seem to offset this.
It's also interesting to see the length of these pilots - they started in 2018/2019 and will continue until 2024 - a long enough time to establish the systemic cultural change that Housing First requires, with interim reports to highlight what is working and where there still needs to be development, and the supply of suitable one-bedroom units discussed by several of the speakers.
I look forward to the outcomes of the final few years of the programme and, hopefully, how the pilot can be rolled out nationally as one of the tools for tackling homelessness.