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Housing

New 'Housing First' strategy could be game-changer, study finds

Crisis report finds a new model for supporting homeless people could be cheaper and more effective than current reliance on hostels

A radical new approach to supporting homeless people has been hailed as cheaper and more effective than the current, hostel-based model.

A report on the “Housing First” strategy, commissioned by the charity Crisis, shows how it might just deliver massive savings for government shelling out billions on the housing benefit-dependent hostel system.

The strategy is based on a simple, bold idea: give a homeless person a home. By giving rough sleepers who have moved in and out of the hostel system some accommodation of their very own, Housing First offers a better way to help them deal with addiction and mental health problems.

Rather than making them go through complicated tests and “good behaviour” steps while staying in hostels to make sure they are “housing ready” – as is currently the case – the person is trusted to turn a corner independently, with support provided at a distance.

Not only is it more effective, but Housing First also makes sense for the public purse

The new Crisis report draws on existing analysis and interviews with people in the sector to estimate how it might work if rolled out across the Liverpool city region.

The potential savings in that one area alone are estimated at between £1.18 million and £4.02 million a year by 2023/24. Not only is it more effective, but Housing First also makes sense for the public purse

Steve Rotherham, the Mayor of the Liverpool city region, said it presented an “exciting opportunity to change how we tackle homelessness.”

“There are limitations to the current system which mean that all too often the most vulnerable rough sleepers are falling through the cracks,” he said. “We want to make sure that anyone finding themselves homeless is able to secure a stable, secure and permanent home with support that is right for them.”

Potential savings are estimated at between £1.18 million and £4.02 million a year by 2023/24

The Big Issue championed the Housing First idea last year as a means of preventing people from getting stuck in costly cycle of dependency.

The current system is costly to maintain as housing benefit is usually claimed on behalf of each person living in communal hostels, and extra funding is also required to run support facilities. As many Big Issue magazine vendors have told us, they are often unpleasant places that can exacerbate addiction and mental health problems.

Researchers at the University of York found the potential annual savings of adopting the Housing First strategy as an alternative ranged between £3,048 and £4,794 per person.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis said: “It sounds obvious, but for these people, the stability and security of their own front door can be a life changing first step towards recovery.”

“Not only is it more effective, but Housing First also makes sense for the public purse.”

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