Blog by Lesley Henderson, Strategic Lead, East of Scotland
We recently had the pleasure of attending the Housing First Europe Hub conference, hosted in Madrid from 28-29 March 2022 with the theme of the event being “Unlocking Systemic Change with Housing First” by applying the principles of Housing First across Housing and Homelessness Services more broadly.
Think tank Demos Helsinki shared their insights on this theme, derived from their report “A New Systems Perspective to Ending Homelessness”. They note the Grassroots approach of Housing First in Scotland (below), which highlights that change can be driven from all levels within a system.
In living our Simon Community Scotland values to Make It Easy, Make It Right and Make It Happen for the people we support who are homeless, or are at risk of homelessness, we can see the principles of Housing First in action across all of our services and in the work we do each day with examples of this including:
- People have the Right to a Home
In recognition of the challenges in accessing affordable housing in Edinburgh, we secured investment of £5m from Social and Sustainable Funding, including £1m from the University of Edinburgh, to purchase 30 homes for people with a history of homelessness to provide them with secure tenancies to help them move forward in lives from a place of safety and stability.
- Flexible Support is provided for as long as it is needed
With our Glasgow Access Hub and Edinburgh Support Hub we are able to provide support for people as they need it, for as long as they need it – there are no restrictions on the number of times you can drop in, with a wide range of support available from both ourselves and partner agencies, ranging from benefits and welfare advice to veterinary check ups for pets.
- Housing and Support are separated
Assistance is available from our Complex Needs and Street Teams whether you are roofless, in temporary accommodation or have your own tenancy, as we work hard to support all people who are homeless or vulnerable. This support is unique to each of the individuals we work with and includes the provision of essential items, enabling access to health services and working to improve wellbeing outcomes.
4. Individuals have Choice and Control
We actively work to ensure the individuals we support have input into the services we deliver; from regular house meetings at our residential services to conversation cafes with the people we support on the streets of Edinburgh. This feedback helps to ensure that our services remain relevant to the people we support, providing empowerment which, for many individuals we work with, this has often been denied.
5. An Active Engagement approach is used
In addition to focusing on relationships first – both in our residential and community outreach work – we also recognise the importance of digital connectivity as a means of facilitating ongoing active engagement. Our Get Connected programmes provides digital devices and data packages to people experiencing homelessness to enable them to maintain and build relationships, not just with ourselves but with their families, friends and other services too.
6. The Service is based on People’s Strengths, Goals and Aspirations
Our Managed Alcohol Programme is a residential service delivered in partnership with the NHS which is focused on walking alongside people, in their own time, as they consider their own relationship with alcohol in a supported setting. There is no requirement to commit to a reduction in consumption, with intentions set by each individual based on what they want to achieve.
7. A Harm Reduction approach is used
We are on a journey to continue the enhancement of our harm reduction approach across our organisation which includes the recent development of our “By My Side” app. This digital resource has been designed in conjunction with some of the women we support as a one stop resource for evidenced based harm reduction information, specifically for women, including podcasts, webinars and links to local services.
So whilst “Unlocking Systemic Change with Housing First” may at a first seem a lofty ambition, in looking at ourselves and what we have already achieved, there is often already a promising foundation for the future.
If you’re interested in joining us, either as part of Housing First or within one of other services, please check out our current vacancies at: https://www.simonscotland.org/support-worker-2/current-vacancies/
Link to Demos Helsinki Report; A New Systems Perspective to Ending Homelessness: