Housing First is a sham, a con, a charade, a farrago as Housing First Scotland proves

The Housing First model and theory that says it takes rough sleepers direct from the street to their own tenancy is a sham, according to Housing First Scotland in a tweet they issued today, Tuesday 23 March. Hoist by their own petard you may say. Over three-quarters of Housing First tenants are NOT housed first and direct from the streets or are they rehoused unconditionally as the cult Housing First model says they are.

25 out of 108 single homeless persons came directly from roofless rough sleepers – the 23% figure in the HF Scotland tweet – meaning the other 83 of these 108 and 77% or more than 3 in every 4 were granted a tenancy from some form of the resettlement model and conditionality has been applied. The Housing First ‘model’ and perverse theory that rough sleepers WILL be given a tenancy without any conditionality on their part before that tenancy is given is blown to pieces as the absurd nonsense it has always been.

In Edinburgh the average time taken to find a Housing (not) First property is over six months at 195 days and is closer to seven months as the same Housing First Scotland data revealed a few weeks ago.

This is the same dataset and (non) performance that led Jon Sparkes the chief executive of Crisis to wet himself enthusing about how great the Housing First model is when its factual outcomes proved precisely the opposite and the model does not work.

Any more doubts about Housing First Jon Sparkes? No there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this sham, charade and farrago is a propagandist cult and you and your organisation Crisis who were paid with a consultancy contract that advised the Scottish Government and all 32 Scottish Local Authorities to go hook, line and sinker into this Housing First charade that cannot possibly work in theory and in practice performs even worse, is not even a turd that can be rolled in glitter.

The only doubt is when will the myopic idiots who commission services finally abandon the Housing First charade – or in reality when will they find enough deflection, excuse or any other reason so that they are not blamed for being the idiots who commissioned Housing First services.

The homeless hostel resettlement model that the Housing First zealots (correctly) say has been failing takes 97 days in official Scottish Government figures to find a one bedded property after 96 nights of conditionality and preparing the resident to be able to sustain a tenancy. Your beloved Housing First model Jon Sparkes takes 149 days to (a) find a property and (b) is not the unconditional theory that you perversely and deceitfully claim it to be.

149 days for Housing First model to find a property compared to 97 days for the hostel resetlement model means far FEWER single homeless persons are given their own tenancy under the HF model. The Housing First model finds 54% FEWER properties than the hostel resettlement model to allow the single homeless person to begin the escape from homelessness.

The HF model can thus accommodate and support 54% fewer single homeless persons that the hostel rsettlement model that Crisis advised to decommission in order to pay for the Housing First model in Glasgow – a case of throwing the baby out with bath water in itself – and that experiment with the lives and life chances of vulnerable single homeless persons has now been proven to be negative and adverse. The Glasgow issue saw 89 homeless hostel rooms decommissioned in favour of the Housing First model. Relevant data is the Scottish Government – the only one which records and publishes average length of stay in hostels, the English, Welsh and NI administrations do not- and the Scottish figure is 97 days as average length of stay in a hostel before move on to their own property.

This means the 89 hostel rooms decommisioned Glasgow hostel rooms accommodated, on average, 335 single homeless persons each year [(365/97) x 89] and so the Housing First service in Glasgow needs to find 335 x 1 bed Housing First properties each year just to stand still. The whole of Scotland and all its 32 LAs managed to find just 404 such 1 bed properties … in two years!

Accommodating and supporting 54% FEWER single homeless persons means 54% MORE rough sleepers will be roofless and on the streets and the Housing First model and its perverse ideological base guarantees that rough sleeping and all other forms of single homelessness will increase not decrease. In short the Housing First model is a dangerous con, sham, charade and farrago. Jon Sparkes, when will you apologise to all single homeless persons in Scotland – as that is what you need to do – for the perverse and shocking advice you gave in promoting the Housing First model when it could not possibly have worked in the first place!

The practical housing issue with the escape from homelessness in all models is the chronic undersupply and chronic lack of availability of the 1 bedded property and this is a structural crisis in Scotland as well as in England. Let me keep this as simple as possible (so the HF zealots can understand!) by looking at both models in their simplest form.

The Housing First model

The notion that it is possible to move direct from the streets to a property of their own IS the Housing First model that actual data for Edinburgh proves cannot work as 77% and more than 3 in every 4 given a tenancy and visiting support in Edinburgh have NOT come from the HF model but from the hostel or other resettlement model stylised below.

Just as the Housing First model suffers from the structural undersupply of the 1 bed property needed to escape homelessness so does the hostel or other resettlement model. In short WHEN (not IF) the 1 bedded property is not there both of the models fail and are bound to fail.

The salient pertinent issue is the structural non-availability of the suitable 1 bedded property which is crossed out in both models and needed to (begin the) end the state of homelessness. EVERY housing-led model to EVERY form of single homeless cohort that is entitled to a 1 bed property is BOUND to fail and is an inevitability. No model can makes a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or put square pegs in non-existent round holes … even WHEN the hyperbole about the HF model is constant zealous propaganda resembles a cult, which it does.

The Domestic Abuse model (stylised for the 35% of refuge residents who are single and childless

The domestic violence and abuse model which is a variant of the single homeless hostel model (but with a pre-refuge visiting support element in outreach) also suffers from the structural non-availability of the 1 bedded property to escape doemestic abuse for the 35% of women in English refuges who are childless and single and thus also require and only entitled to the non-available one bedded propery to finally escape domestic abuse.

The Housing First model is a housing-led solution that can never ever work if the housing is not there in the first bloody place … and the Housing First zealots with their cult chief in Jon Sparkes of Crisis totally and highly conveniently ignore the facts of the non-availability of the bricks and mortar needed in the ethereal 1 bed property. The same Crisis lauded the Housing First large scale pilot in the Liverpool City Region saying it was the perfect place for such a pilot … and ignoring the fact that LCR averages 16.8% of housing stock being the 1 bed property when across England the average is 24% of SRS housing stock as the 1 bed property – or the Liverpool City Region has 2 one bedded properties for every 3 one bedded properties elsewhere – an irrefutable fact not even mentioned in the 168-page report recommending LCR for the Housing First pilot there. Pretty remiss for a theory and model that is 100% dependent upon the 1 bed property being actually available don’t you think!

In the wider correct context of 1 bed need in England we find some 1.2 million single households entitled to and competing for the 25,000 1 bed properties that the English social rented sector landlords have available each year. In simple terms there are 48 qualifying persons competign for every 1 bed SRS property that becomes available

1.2 million chasing 25,000 English 1 bed properties per year

I have seen no comparable data for Scotland to the English context stylised above which reveals 1.2 million single homeless and other 1 bed qualifying cohorts chasing the 25,000 or so 1 bed properties that become available from social rented sector landlords in England each year (for those under 55 and sheltered housing age.) This chronic imbalance of demand versus supply characterises the English context yet the facts and best cautious estimates that comprise the 1.2 m demand are ALL COMPLETELY IGNORED in the Housing First zealotry that characterise the cult nature of the HF model. The HF zealots simply but very wrongly ASSUME the ethereal 1 bed property is available in their haste to evangelise about the panacea they call the Housing First model

The incredulity of the Housing First model

The chronic structural issue of the effective non-availabity of the housing that is needed and needed firstly is not the only perverse and impractical feature of the Housing First model which their zealous advocates stylise below

The HF stylised ‘staircase’ model that attacks the staged resettlement model (the steps)

The HF model is promoted as the housing WILL be available firstly and is entirely dependent on the housing bricks and mortar being available. When the reality sees it takes six and a half months to even find a suitable property in Edinburgh as the data shows the Housing First theory gets a bit auld reekie and Housing First model is theory of the most ridiculous kind as it assumes landlords will offer up their properties to those prospective tenant with a much higher risk of tenancy failure and the much higher cost that involves and NOT receive any more in reward (rental income) for these much higher risk rough sleeper and other single homeless client groups.

Can anyone enlighten me to ANY sector of ANY industry who work on the basis of higher risk does NOT mean higher reward? That is what the Housing First zealots assume landlords, whether social or private, will do. What these same cultlike Housing First model zealots are finding and what they will always find is private and social landlords will tell them to bugger off and ask what planet are they on!

This delusional assumption on housing availability and landlord actions reveals the Housing First model is deluded even in its theory and not just in the practical environment and context of a structural crisis in the non-availability of the 1 bedded property. The theory is as deficient and as Cloud Cuckoo Land as the practice – as for that matter is any housing-led solution to all forms of single homelessness. The same delusion is evident in the support offer of the Housing First model at the suggested 3-4 hours per week of visting support is both extremely deficient and costly.

The Housing First ‘support’ offer

The support element of Housing First is visiting support and all forms of visiting support have three major deficiencies of (a) being costly, (b) less qualititative than in-house or accommodation-based support, and (c) at 3-4 hours per person per week are nowhere near enough to meet existing need never mind reduce the need for ongoing support.

A) Financial Cost of Housing First

The HF zealots and their very well paid consultants claim the £40 per hour cost of visiting support is cost effective. Why local authorities are willing to commission HF visiting support at £40 per hour yet will only pay visiting domicilary care services at £16 per hour is bizarre and shows the cultish zeal that the HF advocates propose has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by LA commissioners.

Those same LA commissioners should go back and look at the Audit Commission report into Supporting People in-payments which said for homelessness that visiting support (floating support) unit cost in 2004/05 was 34% higher than the unit cost or one hour of support delivered in an accommodation-based service such as a hostel. When ALL LAs have a finite funding level and they choose to spend this on any form of visiting support service they can only purchase far less support from the same finite budget.

The AC baseline report of 2006 said the unit cost of one hours support at hostel was £17.19 yet the unit cost of visiting support was £23.02 per hour. Crudely every £100 of support funding bought 6 hours of support in a hostel yet just 4 hours of visiting support.

B) Visiting support as less qualitative

I could write reams here but the shortest and simplest way to explain is when you have support workers on-site as in a hostel or other accommodation-based service any support issues can be dealt with far more quickly and the support problem remains a molehill and is not allowed to become a mountain. The visiting support model is also largely proactive and support of a planned form only yet given the acute number, scale and complexity of rough sleeper support issues, at least 50% of support needs to be reactive and which cannot be modelled out as it is with visiting support models

In short, the exact same ‘reassurance’ rationale that a resident warden / scheme manager plays in sheltered housing / assisted living / extra care provision is a necessity given the nature of the support needs of the rough sleeper client group. In summary, not only is visiting (floating) support more costly it is far less qualitative and an inferior support service is delivered to the vulnerable homeless person.

C) HF visiting support level is pitiful

Again the Supporting People data and research we have illustrates and even further back is the THBS guidance on support services profuced for LA decision makers through Housing Benefit circulars. The A10 HB circular of 2001 advised LAs how to adjudicate how any service was reasonable, realistic and justifiable and it stated that the level of visiting support expressed in hours was directly proportional to the level of client group need in the A47 circular of 2001.

The relevant guidance from the A47/2001 said a low level visiting (floating) support service was 5 hours or less per person per week. A medium level visiting support service was 6 – 21 hours per person per week and a high level visiting support service was 21 hours+ per person per week. Hence the Housing First visiting support service offer at 3 – 4 hours per person per week is a visting support service for a client group with LOW support needs and not a visiting support service suitable for the high, complex and interrelated support needs of the former rough sleeper or many more single homeless persons.

Source: Adjudication HB circular 47 of 2001

Note Well: My purpose here is NOT to say every rough sleeper requires 21+ hours of visiting support per week; rather, I make the simple and obvious point that 4 hours in total visiting support per week to rough sleepers and other single homeless persons under the Housing First model is pitifully inadequate to meet the support needs of the client groups / cohorts being supported.

In terms of the support needs of rough sleepers below is an extract data table in simple form from a report I prepared analysing the support needs of the rough sleepers of a provider client I advised and used here to reveal the scale of support need in just the clients it had been referred by a rough sleeper service and the provider had accommodated and supported.

Rough Sleeeper identified support needs

What the above table reveals is not just one analysis of one homeless provider of the scores I have advised over the last 20 years. I have been collating support need data from all homeless providers advised over the last 20 years and, with the exception of an increase in debt issues in recent years, which reflects an increase in gambling and the welfare reform freezes and cuts, these support need figures are remarkably consistent and typical in all those 20 years.

The level of support issues and the scale, complexity and interrelatedness (is that a word?) that rough sleepers typically have has been acutely understated and underestimated – and in my view deliberately so as identifying support need gives a rationale to fund support for such needs, though the provision of support and support funding has always been 100% discretionary and nobody has a right to be supported, which means that rough sleeping or other homelessness can never be solved and it can never be even reduced unless we make the provision of support a legal right as it is for the provision and funding of care.

In overall summary, the Housing First model is not and has never been any form of answer to the problems of rooflessness or homelessness. It will inevitably fail due to the non-availability of the 1 bed property needed to escape rooflessness and homelessness just as the hostel resettlement model has been failing for decades due to the exact same structural issue of the acute non-availability of suitable 1 bed properties to escape rough sleeping, single homelessness and domestic violence and abuse. This structural issue came well before the systemic issue of welfare reform cuts and freezes that exacerbate and create ever higher levels of rooflessness, homelessness and domestic abuse.

Perversely, well intentioned policy such as the Homeless Reduction Act 2018 has exposed and also exacerbated the problems of rooflessness and homelessness, as for the first time it gives LAs increased homeless duties on the rehousing of single people and has seen (English) LAs respond in the only way they can of gatekeeper in seeking to deny homeless presentations and homeless priority need as they do not have the 1 bedded properties needed to accommodate single homeless groups.

The increased focus on homeless prevention this creates takes yet more visibility away from the escape from homelessness structural issue that the chronic lack of 1 bed properties has always been known and ignored by LAs in terms of getting them built as they had no duties toward single homeless persons essentially until the 2018 HRA in England. While prevention always is better than cure, you cannot ignore the problems of the cure and focus almost exclusively on prevention which is what English LAs do. The HF zealots assume and kid themselves there is ‘cure’ in the form of the necessary rehousing availability yet as every fact and every HF service find it is a chronic and errant and deluded assumption.

Foreseeably, and also perversely in a superficial sense, is the proposal to ban no fault evictions that I have stated many times before will further increase rooflessness, rough sleepers and all single homelessness. The private landlords in England who do rehouse well over 90% of all single homeless persons will take huge flight from rehousing them in the future as they cannot get rid of these higher risk client groups due to the no fault eviction ban. Its the same argument that sees private landlords refusing to house HF rough sleepers as the landlord gets no more in reward (rent) to take on board the much higher risk that all single homeless groups become once no fault evictions are outlawed.

Finally, what all of the facts and comment above reveal is the absence of a lack of thought about single homelessness has been the norm and the lip service single homeless persons have received does not even approch the fur coat and nae knickers level. All that is left is a chronic level of delusional hope in the deluded Housing First model whose propoganda is evidence of it being a cult in which its leaders lie through their teeth (housing FIRST and unconditional by example) to attempt to cover up their chronic incompetence in advocating the Housing First model in the first place. The barge pole correctly directed at Housing First is covered in glitter as day by day there is no turd left to see the bovine anal secretions stick to that barge pole.

The HF zealots claim that the Housing First model works well in the USA yet provide no evidence or substantiation for that claim which in any case is a classic non sequitur as what may work in any other country does not mean it can be parachuted into the UK and it will work. The same glib superficial nonsense and non sequitur was stated about the Foyer movement that we were told worked so weel across much of Western Europe and would revolutionise and drastically reduce young persons single homelessness in the UK. That was 20+ years ago and I am still waiting for this young persons homeless panacea called the Foyer to work its claimed magic. The reality is Foyer’s have not made any difference at all, and to avoid any misreading of that there are good and not so good foyers just like there are good and not so good hostels. I am also not criticising those who work in the Housing First services as like in all homeless support services, support workers do not enter or reamin in it due to the salaries which are pitiful and support workers in overwhelming majority are altruistic and determined to make positive changes – they are just let down and frustrated by the systemic and structural problems of the lack of housing supply and the moronic idiocy of social security policies.

To return to the non sequitur isse and in terms of what is claimed to work well in Housing First services elsewhere eg the USA, we find New York City had 33,000 roofless persons when HF was introduced and today with HF it has 78,000. If you care to read a corruscating report detailing the failure of Housing First in the USA the right wing think tank the Manhattan Institute report on it is well worth a look and especially for the ivory tower academics in the UK who promote the Housing First model and bring a bad name to critical study and academia. For non-academics and if you can’t get your head around the very different housing and homeless context of the USA and which varies from state to state as well in this report, or the peculiar bastardisation of the English language USA think tank reports use, and want to believe the oft-stated Housing First claim it has worked so well in Finland then below are some simple bullet points of how the Finnish HF welfare system differs from the UK

The rent subsidies, what HB includes eg utilities, the tripling of basic dole and free saunas and subsised food and especially the guaranteed by right 24/7 access to any form of support worker would see any form of homeless model work so much better in the UK. Do I need to remind of the brouhaha a £20 per week temporary increase in Universal Credit caused here in the UK while the Housing First zealot argues for a tripling of dole here in the UK and average rents set at one-third of gross market rent which Finland’s HF model has and for Housing Benefit to include gas, electic, water rates and free broadband?

What was that reader? You didn’t realise all of these Finnish welfare issues as the UK Housing First zealots have never mentioned them!? I know …. and the zealous academics and consultants also conveniently ignore these critical differences when they chase research grants for the Housing First model too. It is way past time to come clean on the realities of the doctrinaire Housing First model and vulnerable homeless people deserve far better than the non-outcomes the HF model gives.

One final piece of data regarding Scotland where I began. Shelter (Scotland) stated a few years ago that Scotland has 5,000 rough sleepers each year, a figure the Scottish Government accepted. The Housing First Scotland performance in two years has been to find 404 properties when it has had 10,000 rough sleepers – so that means at most that 4% of rough sleepers have been helped by Housing First in Scotland and the other 96% have not. However, if the Edinburgh data that just 23% helped into HF properties were rough sleepers it means that 23% of Housing First clients were rough sleepers, or just 92 persons of this 404 cohort.

Housing First has thus helped 1% of Scotland’s rough sleepers and NOT helped 99% of Scotland’s rough sleepers over the past two years – and yes the propagandist eulogising of Jon Sparkes of Crisis asking if anyone has any doubts about Housing First in Scotland needs to be viewed in that correct context to expose the charade that is Housing First.