“Housing First” has zero chance of working in England

Housing First is not radical or innovative as Crisis and its many other adherents claim, it is merely a regurgitated failed idea of the past – the old roofless argument and solution. It won’t work, can’t work, never did work and never will work and it will inevitably see the nightmare scenario of MORE homelessness and LESS housing and support provision.  Only a superficial idiot would promote it …

Crisis, the homeless organization, are so fixated with believing their self-generated hype over the Housing First model that they have (a) taken out an advert in Inside Housing magazine and (b) they have teamed up with a private company in order to re-house rough sleepers in the private rented sector there.

More importantly, the Housing First model will not succeed in Liverpool and when, not if, it fails, commissioners in Liverpool will have de-funded the current homeless hostels and they will have closed and not only will we have greater homelessness in and around Liverpool when Housing First fails but there will be nowhere in Liverpool that homeless persons can live as the hostels will have closed due to this hyperbolic vanity project from Crisis.

The Inside Housing paid advert is below and I comment upon this in the order it is not so very cleverly written. It opens with the usual language of ‘may’ provide and ‘some’ answers but of course not all, not a solution, and after Inside Housing correctly inform us this is a “Sponsored Article” aka a paid for advert!

lcr paid avert

Important things are happening in the fight to tackle homelessness in the Liverpool City Region (pictured), which is why I agreed to a secondment from my role with Crisis, to join the combined authority as its strategic lead on homelessness.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the root causes of homelessness by taking radical action to re-engineer the whole system, rather than tinkering around the edges.

Note the hyperbole from the start created to engineer hope with the ‘once in a generation opportunity’ premise to tackle ‘the root causes’ of homelessness no less by taking ‘radical action to re-engineer the whole system.’  Regrettably the bull shit is not limited to the prose and you will recall I said precisely why the Housing First model doesn’t have a hope in hell’s chance of addressing homelessness in and around Liverpool (the Liverpool City Region) when Crisis launched their HF LCR report early last year and I did so in a huge amount of detail both actual and practical detail here, here and here  but let’s stick to this latest hyperbolic nonsense from Crisis … who felt the need to pay for an advertisement wrapped up as an article in Inside Housing!!

And we have that opportunity due to the convergence of a number of factors.

There is the political will here in the city region to do things differently, led by metro mayor Steve Rotheram, who championed the adoption of a Housing First approach to end homelessness as part of his election manifesto.

Crisis chose not to say that Steve Rotheram has absolutely no powers concerning homelessness as he is the Metro Mayor for LCR that comprises the five local authorities of Merseyside and a sixth council in Halton.  The homeless duties remain with the six local authorities and the LCR Metro Mayor has no powers over homelessness or housing at all.

There has been a quiet revolution happening in other parts of the world, where the Housing First model is being used to end homelessness for those with the greatest support needs.

The central concept of Housing First is that permanent housing is provided without the need to prove readiness, and that co-ordinated, personalised, intensive support is put in place to help that person to maintain and thrive in that home.

Absolute nonsense is the claim that Housing First puts in ‘intensive support’ as Crisis and its seconded author of this polemic know full well.  The Crisis / LCR report claims that each HF client will receive three hours of support per person per week.

Let’s leave aside how this reactive and visiting support is said to happen and focus on the 3 hours per week that Crisis claim is intensive support!  The THB (transitional housing benefit) scheme from 2002 to 2003 classified levels of visiting support in a HB circular as up to 5 hours per week being LOW level support and it needed 15+ hours per week of support to make it HIGH level or intensive support. So not only are Crisis stretching credulity when they claim 3 hours per person per week is intensive, they are also stretching credulity with the belief that this very low level of visiting support is adequate for the very high and very complex need that rough sleepers have!

And, by the way, the cost of each hour of this visiting support under the HF model is £40 per hour and the current resettlement homeless model in hostel and refuges in LCR tends to cost half of that at circa £20 per hour.  So Housing First is twice the cost of what it seeks to replace!

There is overwhelming international evidence that it works, evidence backed up by a feasibility study carried out here in the Liverpool City Region.

Absolute nonsense again!  There is not overwhelming international evidence at all, there is merely the evidence of Finland where the Finnish system has bought and developed new housing for the Housing First model which is necessary in order for it to work.

  • To make HF work just in England would require 36,000 new 1 bed properties to replace the 36,000 who live in single person homeless hostels at any one time.
  • Additionally, another 34,000 or so would be needed to accommodate the approximate number of English rough sleepers
  • Further, as between 30% – 35% of all women who enter domestic abuse refuges are single, childless and under 35 we can add around 2,000 to that number making an immediate need for 72,000 1 bed individual properties just in England for rough sleepers.

Of course, these (minimum) 72,000 1 bed properties would need to be affordable too and at rents close to the social rent level, yet less than 5,000 of these were built last year and so at that rate and assuming there is no increase in homelessness of any form it would take 15 years for the HF model to work … and even that assumes every new social rent property goes to those who are homeless!  Yet just 30% of SRS properties that become available go to those classed as homeless in England and so it would take 50 years and not 15 years for there to be enough 1 bed properties for the intended HF client group!

Is it just me or did Crisis engage Nigel Farage’s scriptwriter for this piece of incredulous prose?!

With the political will in place, this successful feasibility study, along with the ongoing successes in countries like Finland, led to our city region being awarded £7.7m by central government. We are one of three pilot areas, along with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, that have been chosen for a pilot of the Housing First approach.

Our partner organisations across the region, including our six constituent local authorities and our local housing associations, have shown themselves to be up for the challenge of recalibrating and re-engineering our approach to tackling homelessness.

Because there is no doubt that the system needs to change.

Blah, blah, guff, guff, guff!  Doesn’t £7.7m sound a lot reader? Oh its over 3 years and includes a subsequent as well as ongoing support and so it equates when considered correctly to less than three hours per person per week – or chronically low level support as I stated here.  Recalibrating and re-engineering anyone? How can you recalibrate an approach?  Oh and don’t be fooled by the inference that all LCR housing associations are on board with Crisis as you can see how much homelessness’ means to them by their actual operations from the CORE data I revealed last week below:

lcr data table ha lettings 201617

Wow! With as low as 4% of newly available tenancies going to those who are homeless compared with the English average being 28% we can see that housing associations across LCR couldn’t care less about homeless client groups and least of all the highest perceived risk homeless client groups in rough sleepers!

A workable solution

I’ve worked with people who are homeless for 15 years and I know we don’t always do things right. That is not a reflection on staff and volunteers, who work tirelessly to support some of the most vulnerable and disenchanted people in our society. The fact is that the system isn’t geared up to give homeless people what they need – access to permanent housing.

I couldn’t agree more Kate Farrell.  It is the system that is at fault and why the resettlement model of homelessness is failing.

To put that in the simplest lay terms, the housing associations (NB there are no council landlords in LCR) are and have always been unwilling to accommodate homeless persons whether from hostels and especially not direct from the streets.  This is why ALL SIX LCR authorities house far less than the English average when it comes to giving a HA property to those unfortunate enough to be classed as homeless.

Yet now you have according to your hype Kate Farrell you have managed to persuade the LCR housing associations to travel the road to Damascus like St Paul and have this miraculous social purpose change! I must have the Nigel Farage scriptwriter posit wrong as Crisis has clearly engaged the IDS scriptwriters who told us all about his Damascene conversion in Easterhouse in Glasgow.  Or perhaps Crisis has engaged two sets of scriptwriters for this laughingly incredulous polemic?

I have seen people working every day to overcome these challenges and provide incredible support for people who sometimes, understandably, aren’t that easy to work with. But it would be much easier if all that effort was being channelled through a system that was redesigned to work better for the exact people it is there to support.

Ending homelessness may seem at its core quite simple – give someone a home and they are no longer homeless. Achieving it is much more complex. Of course, the home must be affordable, safe and comfortable, and come with the appropriate support to help that person manage the practicalities and emotional challenges that can come with the move, but sometimes it has felt like that aspiration is incredibly far away for the people we’ve been trying to support.

Yes and you believe “appropriate support” is no more than three hours per week Kate!!!

Emergency and temporary accommodation solutions are obviously what is needed at a moment of crisis, but they are regularly becoming a long-term response. Who would really want to ‘live’ in a shelter or a hostel? They are no substitute for a home, which is what we should aspire to for everyone.

And why are EA and TA accommodation becoming long-term? Yes because the HAs are and always have been unwilling to give move-on accommodation that the Housing First model in your dystopian hyperbole will miraculously see appear out of the ether!!

I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘housing ready’, and terms like ‘the homeless’ suggests ‘other’ people. In reality, homelessness is a symptom of a system that has failed, and people experiencing homelessness are not fundamentally different – they are just people who need a home.

Homelessness is increasing in all of its forms, but it does discriminate. If you are poor, and have grown up poor, you are far more likely to experience homelessness. Many people who are homeless have lots of other support needs, which may not have been fully met for many years.

These factors compound and can often lead to people becoming entrenched in a ‘street lifestyle’ (another term we have come to accept) or unable to engage with the services that are on offer. This is not a failing of that individual; it is a failing of the services we are offering.

Yes there ARE many forms of homelessness and many homeless ‘client groups’ (none of whom are homogeneous) yet you argument having said they are not all the same then reverts to the same rough sleeper analogy to make its perverse point.  A ‘street lifestyle’ labeling becomes perilously close to saying this is a lifestyle choice and a truly offensive label!  When you have purported ‘friends’ of those homeless saying this then who the hell needs enemies?

You can read the rest of this delusional nonsense yourself reader as it is just so poor, so vague, so full of hyperbole and yes total bullshit … yet this is the view of Crisis who perceive themselves and portray themselves as the homelessness experts.

Housing First is all about Crisis and others seeking short-term political kudos and the funding that goes with it.  WHEN it all goes ‘tits-up’ – a very professional phrase – and it will go tits-up very quickly despite the political will, then many of the hostels and refuges and other resettlement models that are failing now because move-on and more permanent accommodation is NOT and NEVER HAS been available and NEVER WILL BE available will close.

THEN those commissioners and funders who are now (in their short-term haste) buying the bullshit that Housing First as the most radical option will work, will need to de-fund and close the current hostels and refuges to fund the overblown, hyperbolic and truly unworkable Housing First models that Crisis disingenuously say will solve homelessness!

THEN when HF does fail the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater and those commissioners and funders will say that the most radical homeless model in HF has failed therefore homelessness is just as intractable and unsolvable as prostitution or drugs and homeless funding will be massively de-prioritized and massively reduced and they will also say homelessness is a lifestyle choice and the fault of the individual and not a systemic problem.

But hey reader, as I said above, Crisis are only interested in Crisis and the survival of Crisis and their slavish and blind adherence to a model that cannot possibly work in the UK will see Crisis being largely and directly responsible for the poor bastards who have become homeless for hundreds of reasons have a far worse lot than the abysmal one they have today.

Finally, this post has a simple message.  IF you are in any way interested in addressing homelessness in the UK then you have to challenge the massive and numerous perverse assumptions and bullshit that is claimed for the Housing First model – because if you do not and you believe or want to believe the hype around it, then you will have let yourself down.


The rest of this wholly disingenuous paid advertisement is below

If you genuinely feel your best option for your day, or life, is sleeping outside or sitting on a pavement, something has gone horribly wrong. There is an acceptance that some people are just too hard to help, or whatever help we provide will be temporary and ‘good enough’ until the next crisis when we see them again – we need to aspire to something better than this.

That something better is Housing First, which has been proven to work.

It will not happen overnight, but the funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government gives us the resources to start what we need to do. We are already building a team, based within the combined authority and, crucially, we are working very hard with our partners in our local authorities and housing associations, because for Housing First to work it cannot be a small standalone project – its principles must form the cornerstone of how we do business.

It will require a completely new approach, and I am pleased that so many people have shown themselves to be so open to change. One of the things that we will need to do, and have already begun, is to involve the people we are here to support in every part of the process, including commissioning, listening to and learning from the lived experience of homeless people, ensuring that the new system works for them.

Central government has signalled its commitment to the success of Housing First by putting aside almost £2m for a national evaluation of the pilot, which I hope signals real aspiration for rolling the approach out across the country.

We have a fantastic chance to make long-term homelessness a thing of the past. Next year will see real change here in the city region and, together with all of our partners, we are determined to grasp the opportunity.

Kate Farrell, strategic lead on homelessness, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority


Source: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/sponsored/chance-to-solve-a-crisis

The full text of this paid advert is below in the three thumbnails

About me:

I have worked in homeless hostels, homeless families units. I have managed them. I have managed the managers of them. I have managed those regional managers too and I developed and ran a successful service 20 years ago that would today be called a Housing First model.  I have advised scores of homeless hostel and domestic abuse refuge providers across the UK for the last 18 years as a consultant.  I am and will always remain passionate about addressing and solving homelessness – a state I was once in after an illegal eviction by a private landlord and luckily I had a great circle of family and friends to support me.

Yet the Housing First model is unworkable as it is a case of what Goethe called Denn eben wo Begriffe fehlen, Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Zeit sich ein – for when ideas fail words come in to save the day.

Housing First is no different to the roofless / homeless debate of 30 years ago when idiots then, as now, believed that putting a roof over a homeless persons head solves homelessness.  It won’t, never has and never will.

Housing First is not radical or innovative as Crisis and its many other adherents claim, it is merely a regurgitated failed idea of the past – the old roofless argument and solution. For just when ideas fail words come along to save the situation as Goethe correctly stated centuries ago.

Crisis et al will get kudos for trying and a shit load of funding too and when HF fails they will spin this as at least we tried to solve homelessness and attract sympathy.

  • Sympathy is no good to the even greater number of homeless persons that HF will create;
  • no good to the greater number of rough sleepers vying for the best doorway or hedgerow;
  • no good for the increasing number who will be forced to sleep rough as there are many fewer hostels;
  • no good for the increasing number of domestic abuse victims who will be vying for ever fewer refuge spaces and be forced to stay and suffer even more abuse or sleep rough;
  • no good for the homeless families who cannot be found a Travelodge or other unsuitable temporary homeless accommodation less than 50 or 150 miles from their local area as they too will be overflowing and oversubscribed.

This is the reality of what will happen with Housing First and it is not scaremongering in any way but regrettably inevitable.  The Housing First hyperbole is even more superficial than saying Brexit will see the NHS get £350m more per week yet nobody is challenging the HF model and many believe and want to believe the hype and hyperbole.

DON’T believe it!

IF HF could work I would be the first to get behind it and I would be shouting from the rooftops but it won’t work and can’t work and the overlong post above only mentions a few of its failings and there are a great many more.

For just when ideas fail, word(s) come in to save the situation – Housing First are those words!


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