‘Housing first’ scheme needed to tackle homelessness, says Holyrood committee

A Scotland-wide 'Housing First' scheme should be introduced to help tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, a Holyrood committee has said.
A Scotland-wide 'Housing First' scheme should be introduced to help tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, a Holyrood committee has said.
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A Scotland-wide ‘Housing First’ scheme should be introduced to help tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, a Holyrood committee has said.

The housing model prioritises a person’s unconditional right to a permanent home without the need to engage with housing support services or several levels of temporary accommodation first.

The scheme, which has been piloted in some parts of Scotland, has been used effectively in Finland - the only country in Europe where homelessness has declined.

Its roll-out across the country is one of a series of recommendations in a report published by the Local Government and Communities Committee.

It follows the committee’s year-long inquiry into the causes of and long-term solutions to homelessness in Scotland.

The latest figures show councils received more than 34,800 applications for homelessness assistance in the year to September 2017.

Evidence presented to the committee suggested Housing First was the most suitable method for supporting homeless people with complex needs, such as drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues or offending behaviour.

Turning Point Scotland, one of the first organisations to implement the model in Scotland, said the initiative meant that individuals do not have to show commitment to maintaining a tenancy or give up any of their addictions before they are given a permanent tenancy accompanied by the right support.

In Finland, the scheme’s widespread use has resulted in “dramatic improvements in individuals’ health and well-being and in tenancy retentions”.

“In many cases, it was found that for those who had had problems with substance and alcohol misuse, their using reduced dramatically or stopped when they were given a secure tenancy and the right support,” the committee’s report states.

Convener Bob Dorris said: “After hearing directly from people who are homeless and those who have experienced sleeping on the streets or sofa-surfing, as well as service providers on the front-line, it was clear that further action is needed.

“That’s why our committee has recommended that the Scottish Government learns from Finland and rolls out a Scottish version of Housing First, as a part of a potential solution to addressing homelessness.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “I welcome the committee’s report, which will help inform the steps we are already taking to address this important issue.”

He added: “Scotland has some of the strongest housing rights for homeless people, but as this report highlights, for some people - who may have more complex needs or be rough sleeping - simply providing accommodation is not always enough.

“That approach is at the heart of developments such as the Housing First model, which is already being delivered in areas of Scotland and shown great results so far, along with our wider focus on prevention through Housing Options.”

Mr Stewart continued: “The Committee has highlighted a number of important areas for further work which I will consider fully and carefully.”