Scotland vows to scale up Housing First to prevent rough sleeping return

The Housing First Pathfinder led to 250 tenancies across Scotland in its first year – now the aim is to extend the approach to cover the 200 people temporarily housed during the Covid-19 crisis

Housing First will be expanded in Scotland to prevent rough sleepers put up in hotels from returning to the streets after the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 200 people – including some who have no recourse to public funds – who were rough sleeping in Scotland’s town, cities and rural locations have been accommodated in hotels and other facilities left empty by the pandemic to protect them from the virus.

They will be included in Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder, which is celebrating its first anniversary today, alongside the 250-plus people who have already been given a tenancy alongside wraparound support for trauma, addiction and more.

The policy has proven a success in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeenshire with 90 per cent of people staying in the home they are given by the project.

“Partners involved in Housing First are putting the lived experiences of people at the heart of what they are doing and providing evidenced based responses to do what is right for every person,” said Housing Minister Kevin Stewart.

Christopher-Middlemass-Christmas-Housing-First-poetry
We visited Christopher Middlemass in December 2019 to see how he was getting on in his Housing First tenancy in Glasgow

“In the current public health emergency, it is vital that we all build on the progress made as we seek to meet our commitment to end rough sleeping for good. I look forward to working closely with all involved in the Pathfinder, to ensure Housing First is available to all those who will benefit from it.”

The Housing First Pathfinder is funded in part by social enterprise and homelessness cafe Social Bite who generated funds by holding their Sleep in the Park events in 2017 and 2018. Social Bite have mobilised to deliver more than 4,000 food parcels per day to the most vulnerable during the lockdown.

In the current public health emergency, it is vital that we all build on the progress made as we seek to meet our commitment to end rough sleeping for good

But Jane Bruce, chief executive of Social Bite, has praised the leadership energy and commitment that has led to the progress the Pathfinder has made so far.

“Each and every person housed now has the safety and security of their own home and, with committed support alongside them, they are in a vastly improved position to be able to build a good life. It’s been amazing to see our skilled partners come together across the pathfinder areas and Scotland to make this project happen.”

Housing First has previously found success in Finland and has virtually ended street homelessness in the Scandinavian country.

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Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Y-Foundation who manage Housing First in Finland, also praised the work done in Scotland.

“The current coronavirus has made it crystal clear that the only sustainable solution to homelessness is permanent housing with Housing First,” he said. “Whatever obstacles and challenges we may come across we have to continue to work together to end homelessness without any hesitation. In this work we need beacons of hope like the Pathfinder. The work done in Scotland to upscale Housing First is an inspirational example for many countries.”

Scotland may also be looking to Finland for inspiration for a Universal Basic Income. The Finns revealed the results of their two-year trial yesterday, showing a boost in wellbeing for those who received the unconditional £490-a-month payment. It will make interesting reading for the Scottish Government, who have been exploring the idea for some time.

Image: Matt Marcus