Updated: Feb 3
The Greater Manchester Housing First service launched in April 2019, alongside pilots in the West Midlands and Liverpool.
Partnership Lead Great Places and its partners have worked tirelessly to ensure that the GM pilot not only houses some of the most vulnerable people in our society and keeps at the heart of delivery the guiding principles of the Housing First approach.
In the early stages of the pilot, Programme Lead Emily Cole and her team worked to put the right partnership infrastructure in place to ensure the future success of the project.
A standardised job description was created for our Housing First Workers and values-based recruitment exercises co-produced with people with lived experience to ensure that the right people were recruited as it is the staff that will enable the success of the pilot.
Co-production is at the heart of the pilot as it continues to develop and the co-production panel remain central in supporting this to ensure people with lived experience views and input are equally as valued.
It is important to reiterate that Housing First is not a quick-fix or a one-size-fits-all solution to rough sleeping and homelessness.
Housing First targets people who have fallen through the gaps of the traditional support models and our delivery teams can put in hundreds of hours of engagement building a relationship and trust with people who have often experienced complex trauma and as a result have a distrust of services and people.
Along with the ABEN (A Bed Every Night); the SIB (Social Impact Bond); and the Rough Sleeping Initiative programmes, we are working together to tackle entrenched rough sleeping and chronic homelessness and, together, we are making a difference.
As the pilot progresses, we are adapting and evolving our services to ensure they are fit for purpose with the intention of creating a blueprint for excellence which improves the way we work, developed and valued by the people of GM.
Housing First is an internationally-renowned, evidence-based intervention, which uses housing as a platform to enable individuals with multiple and complex needs to begin recovery and move away from homelessness.
Unlike other supported housing models, individuals do not need to prove they are ready for independent housing, or progress through a series of accommodation and treatment ‘steps’.
There are no conditions placed on them, other than a willingness to maintain a tenancy agreement, and Housing First is designed to provide long-term, open-ended support for their on-going needs.
And the evidence gained from Housing First projects both home and abroad in terms of tenancy sustainability is compelling.
There is evidence that Housing First provides strong and consistent outcomes for tenancy sustainment for a cohort of individuals that have experienced chronic and repeated homelessness and experienced multiple disadvantage.
Rates of housing sustainment from 70 per cent to over 90 per cent have been achieved by various models of Housing First (Pleace and Quilgars, 2013).
High tenancy sustainment rates have also been achieved by Housing First projects in Europe. The recent evaluation of nine English Housing First projects found that 74 per cent of current service users had been successfully housed for one year or more by five of the Housing First services (Pleace and Bretherton 2015).
These figures are very encouraging and we are delighted of the support from the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burhnam, Greater Manchester Housing Providers and other landlords in the Greater Manchester area to help us house people referred through the programme.
As you can see, we are supporting and engaging with people referred into the programme and we have matched people to properties so hopefully the numbers will continue to rise.
But this pilot isn’t about statistics and numbers, it’s about relationships and people. There’s no time limit on the support we offer; both before moving into their new home and during their tenancy.
Although, it is important to reiterate that Housing First is centred on choice and people offered a property have every right to turn it down if they don’t feel if it is the right one for them.
We put the power of choice in terms of property and the support received in the hands of the person to create the best possible circumstances of creating a sustainable tenancy.
The human impact that the Housing First intervention is having is evident from the stories from our delivery teams of people finding a safe and secure home from which they can begin their recovery have been humbling.
One of the people we have helped so far is a man who had fallen into alcohol dependency following a trauma in his childhood.
He was living with his parents but an incident involving a neighbour saw him get arrested and hit with an injunction meaning he was only allowed to be in the area at certain times of the day.
The man turned into sleeping rough and accessing A Bed Every Night (ABEN) and other temporary accommodation for around 18 months but he struggled to cope with sharing with lots of people.
Then he was referred to the GMHF programme and the power of his recovery journey was put into his hands – inline with the principles of Housing First.
He was given the choice over the property and location he thought he would be able to settle in and would be able to access the support where and when wanted.
And it’s this element and choice and control that has seen the man flourish and take a real grip on his life.
He has been able to focus on his battle with alcoholism and his health. The team has also helped the man to claim benefits as he previously wasn’t.
Now he has real prospects, including reconnecting with his family, develop his interests in boxing and fishing, get a dog and build a better life.
This is one story of many and we are continuing to change lives on a daily basis.
But this is just the start of the journey. We will continue to work with our partners and the
Greater Manchester Combined Authority to ensure the pilot has the access to housing and the right support for people being referred to the programme.
We are also starting our work with landlords in the Private Rented Sector as they play a vital role in supporting delivery of not only this programme but helping in a housing crisis.
We have undergone two external fidelity reviews by Homeless Link, which look at how aligned to the principles of Housing First the service is being delivered and both have been very encouraging.
The service continues to improve and delivery to most principles have been rated as high or medium/high and we will continue to work hard to ensure the pilot continues to evolve as we are about to implement our own Quality and Assurance framework to ensure fidelity across GM.