The Housing First model even when ‘scaled-up’ to 16,450 clients as its advocates led by Crisis demand will only ever eliminate 11% of rough sleeping in England. That means 89 out of every 100 rough sleepers in England will not get any support to end their roofless state under the Housing First model.
This is just one of the many known and provable problems with the incredibly moralistic and superficial Housing First model and theory and why it can only ever be a tiny bit-part of eliminating rough sleeping which is a subset of single homelessness accounting for a single figure percentage of single homeless persons in England.
1. Housing First can only be 11% of the solution
Currently around 2000 persons are supported by the Housing First model as a ‘report’ from Crisis revealed last week here. The same ‘report’ reasserted the claimed need for 16,450 Housing First caseload first revealed in a Centre for Social Justice think tank report “Close to Home” authored by Sarah Rowe of Crisis revealed here. This 16,450 is a finite capacity and the aim is Housing First support to delivered to each former rough sleeper for an average three-year period. This means the 16,450 capacity is finite and a maximum constant for three years.
However, in any three-year period England and the English systems creates 150,000 rough sleepers and 50,000 rough sleepers each and every year. The 16,450 finite and maximum HF caseload is thus 11% of the rough sleeper total number.
The 16450 finite capacity of Housing First also meand Crisis and the hard right-wing CSJ think tank believe 89% of rough sleepers need no support whatsoever in order to transition from the street and sustain a tenancy on their own!!
2. Does England have 50,000 rough sleepers each and every year?
Yes. Every method used to calculate the yearly number of rough sleepers in England arrives at a consistent minimum of 50,000 each year. For example the CHAIN data which is the only year round and yearly count of rough sleepers revealed London has over 11,000 rough sleepers in a year. The one-off rough sleeper count that is conducted on one night per year, noting that in 68% of local authorities no count was undertaken and replaced with a desktop estimate, has consistently revealed London has between 21% and 22% of all rough sleepers in England. A simple extrapolation sees 11,000+ CHAIN data number for London equating to over 50,000 for an All England figure. There are many other simple ways to arrive at this minimum 50,000 pa figure which I detailed here.
3 Housing First is a “success” and/or Housing First “works”
These claims are regularly stated by HF advocates so much so they become a mantra. However, they are semantics writ large as Housing First model CAN be a success and it CAN work … yet only for 11% of the roofless rough sleeper population so Housing First is NOT a solution at all to the problem of rough sleeping. The HF advocates propaganda and which includes academia is as subtle as a sledgehammer.
4) Scaling-up Housing First will lead to an increase in rough sleeper numbers
The scaled-up Housing First model will only serve to INCREASE rough sleeper numbers in England for some obvious reasons around cherry picking and the impact scaling up has on reducing the availability of the elusive one-bedded property to other homeless cohorts.
In Greater Manchester we have seen the Social Impact Bond (SIB) initiative. This sees social enterprises invest in HF services tied to an investment return paid the longer the Housing First client remains in the permanent tenancy. That system inevitably leads to cherry picking on the allocation of HF properties in order to maximise the return from the SIB and HF clients are chosen essentially by reason of the lower and most manageable support need seeing those with the highest and most complex needs refused the HF property as they have the greatest chance of failing.
In the Scottish large scale HF pilot we also see in Edinburgh that 77% of those chosen to go onto the Housing First scheme had no history of being a rough sleeper in the first place. This is another obvious example of cherry picking and also debunks the Housing First theory of rough sleepers being granted a tenancy on an unconditional basis.
The Housing First model competes with many other single homeless groups for the elusive one bedded property which provides the ESCAPE from homelessness and/or rooflessness. It is a zero sum game so scaling up Housing First means reducing the one-bedded ESCAPE property for other single homeless groups such as hostel dwellers and single childless women in domestic abuse refuges.
For example, England’s 40,000 homeless hostel rooms sees a resident stay at a best estimate for 21 weeks on average meaning hostels see 2.48 persons per hostel room per year. 40,000 hostel rooms gives a throughput of 99,300 single homeless persons per year in hostels. Yet, when the competing Housing First model scales up from 2000 to 16,450 it means 14,450 fewer one-bedded ESCAPE properties are available to the hostel (and refuge) dweller thus longer times are spent at hostel and refuge. Say this increases from 21 weeks to 26 weeks and we see just 2 hostel dwellers per room per year and 80,000 residing in hostels pa down from almost 100,000 pa before.
This further means that hostels rooms will be denied to many more seeking to enter them and thus the rough sleeper number increases. Worse, we will see refuges have to refuse more women because they are full for longer and their throughput is reduced meaning more women, both single and with children, will be denied entry to refuge because refuges are unable to move on their existing residents as the Housing First model has taken so many more of the one-bedded ESCAPE properties. NB: Circa 35% of women who flee to refuge are childless thus single homeless who require the same one-bedded ESCAPE property in order to free up refuge rooms.
4. Housing First is 100% dependent on the one-bedded property being available.
The Housing First model has two central aspects of; “… (1) the most effective solution to homelessness is permanent housing; and (2) all housing for the homeless should be provided immediately, without any preconditions, such as sobriety requirements.” In short that the bricks and mortar housing is provided firstly and unconditionally. Only when the housing element is provided can the visiting support element of Housing First be delivered to former rough sleepers.
This definition which is the most accurate I have seen in more than 20 years studying the Housing First model comes from a research report in April 20202 into two decades of Housing First operation in the United States from the Manhattan Institute entitled “Housing First and Homelessness: The Reality and the Rhetoric.”
The model has been in operation in the US for two decades and more yet in England it has rarely seen any more than 5 years of operation. HF in the USA like in England is party apolitical having the support of Democrat and Republican alike just as in England HF has broad cross party apolitical support from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Homelessness (APPG Homeless) for which Crisis the leading advocate of HF in England provide the secretariat.
Put very simply the Housing First model as its name suggests means the model cannot work if that housing is not available. The housing that is needed for Housing First is the elusive permanent one-bedded property which in England in 2019/20 sees official data record SRS landlords provided just 11,106 one-bedded properties to ALL single homeless groups. This used to be 13,000 per year and before that 19,000 per year as the Moving In report from Crisis stated in 2017.
These 11,000 or so (2019/20 CORE data) single homeless properties is the SRS and thus permanent yearly supply figure for 50,000 rough sleepers, some 100,000 homeless hostel dwellers, many thousands of single women in domestic violence and abuse refuges, 386,000 further single homeless households who reside as lodgers (sofa surfers) in someone else’s property. The social rented sector (SRS) also has demand for its one-bedded available properties from the 529,000 single households (individual or childless couple) that official figures reveal are on waiting lists for the same elusive one-bedded property.
In short, the supply and demand for permanent one-bedded properties in the social rented sector is so acutely imbalanced and under supplied it is a structural issue of fact of England’s rented housing. The private rented sector or PRS does not ordinarily provide permanent housing and most definitely does not provide permanent housing on an unconditional basis. The Housing First model however assumes that there is availability of the suitable properties and it further assumes they will be allocated unconditionally and will be operated in an unconditional way with evictions however well merited not permissible.
5. Housing First advocates demand Government stumps up funding but will not scrutinise!
The aforementioned Crisis ‘report’ into the three large-scale pilots of the Housing First model insists that Housing First is a ‘success’ yet does not provide substantiation or data to that effect; rather it states that HF is a ‘success’ on the repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it to be true basis. It further demands Government give continuation funding for these pilots and also demands additional Government funding to scale-up the Housing First model from its circa 2000 capacity currently to a 16,450 Housing First capacity figure previously mentioned without any real scrutiny of whether the pilots were successful or not. I have placed inverted commas correctly around this Crisis ‘report’ for numerous reasons that this ‘report’ overtly avoids by its repeated use of errors of omission, errors of commission and all round propaganda that even includes claiming success for a model which is not even a Housing First model at all.
How can being moved on be a Housing First nodel permanent property!!??
Regrettably, this is a common issue with Crisis as earlier this year its chief executive Jon Sparkes was effusive about the Scottish Housing First pilot recording zero (planned) evictions yet failing to mention it took 149 days on average across Scotland for Scottish Local Authorities to even find the suitable one-bedded property without any mention of this or any mention of where the rough sleeper resides for the 148 nights whilst they await the elusive one-bedded property becoming available in the first place.
The fact Crisis use the Aberdeen HF example in their propagandist ‘report’ yet choose to omit that the Aberdeen HF scheme takes 115 days to actually find the elusive one-bedded HF property in the first place and cannot possibly meet the Housing First model theory and criteria of immediately housing the rough sleeper characterises the propagandist errors of commission Crisis ‘report.’
The Housing First theory of providing the housing firstly and immediately simply cannot hold when it takes 5 months on average to even find a property! It was later revealed as I reported above that 77% of clients on the Edinburgh Housing First pilot were NOT former rough sleepers too and presumably other single homeless cohorts such as hostel dwellers and it took over 6 months on average (195 days) to find a one-bedded property for the Edinburgh Housing First client.
6. Housing First’s “just fund and don’t dare scrutinise” demand
Government MUST properly scrutinise the Housing First pilots before committing any more funding for them and this should have been done way before the issue of continuation funding was needed. It cannot be satisfied with the hyperbolic delusion of the Housing First advocates saying it is ‘success’ on a tell a lie often enough and people believe it basis! What if Housing First actually increases rough sleeping numbers which I argue it does? Why are we bombarded with never substantiated statements that Housing First works without asking for evidence and without defining what ‘works’ means in this context?
Why does nobody ever check basic facts and operate basic levels of scrutiny by asking how come when New York City began Housing First it had 33,000 rough sleepers yet after 20 years of HF operation it has 78,000?
Of course there could be many other reasons why the homeless rough sleeper population has increased in NYC and it doesn’t necessarily follow that adopting Housing First means greater homeless rough sleeper numbers. However, it most definitely does mean that there is no way anyone can say Housing First is a success in NYC is there!? Yet that is all we hear and read and this and other claimed ‘successes’ are never substantiated or evidenced they are just repeated in mantra fashion as part of the tell a lie often enough and people believe it strategy. The three large-scale pilot programmes in England are just that – PILOTS – which mean they must be scrutinised and in depth before any government funding commitment is made to scale-up. They need to be scrutinised vigorously and independently.
7 Housing First as cost-ineffective gravy trains?
The Crisis sham ‘report’ which alludes to be an official report to the APPG Homeless for whom Crisis provides the secretariat though covers itself with a disclaimer is highly selective on the cost of Housing First and even fails to state the £9,683 per Housing First client per year is JUST the cost of the visiting support with the rent cost being additional. Note too the rent cost will be far higher than normal as the housing benefit used to pay for it will be for furnished accommodation not the standard totally unfurnished SRS rehousing offer.
£9,683 per year is £185 per person per week in visiting support costs and as the claimed typical Housing First support offer is 3 hours per client per week this is over £60 per hour of support or unit cost which is extremely expensive and circa FOUR TIMES the costs when compared to the funding local authorities pay for one visiting hour of domiciliary care at £15 per hour or so. [A 2017 UK Home Care Association report saw £14.68 per hour as the average across England]
Further, as the Housing First worker to client support offer is three hours per week it gives a support worker to client ratio of 1:12 which means the support provider receives 12 times this £9,683 per person funding for each visiting support worker they employ which equates to £116,196 of funding for each visiting support worker employed!
I mention these admittedly crude ratios and figures so that the Housing First model is thoroughly and rigorously investigated as to cost and that a detailed examination of cost, capacity and impact on other homeless services is undertaken and BEFORE any additional government funding is ‘spaffed up the wall’ on this highly theoretic model.
What is the purpose of any pilot programme in the first place if not to rigorously scrutinise what the pilot programmes claimed to do in the first place.
The Housing First model like all other new initiatives does not operate in a vacuum and has impacts on the single homeless market it seeks to disrupt which is why I discuss the impacts on hostels and refuges and also compare the excessive Housing First visiting support costs to visiting care services.
Housing First I posit can at best provide a working solution to just 11% of rough sleepers and it can only manage this at exorbitant and unsustainable cost and to the detriment of all other single homeless groups by adopting a beggar they neighbour approach to the majority of single homeless persons and households.
In addition there are literally dozens of other aspects I could have detailed such as the rent costs and how can the PRS landlords in England ever provide a permanent escape property even before ill-considered aspects as the banning of no fault eviction proposals that will see PRS landlords taking flight from all of the single homeless rehousing market.
I could also detail many highly nuanced aspects such as how cherry picking the HF client means that hostels will become far more dangerous environments as they are the only option left for the most complex need and most violent rough sleeper.
Will hostels have to enhance their legally questionable but operationally necessary banning of certain homeless persons and what are the consequences of that aspect?
You can be sure the Housing First scheme will not unconditionally take arsonists and schedule one offenders and be equally sure that landlords, private and social, will not willingly accommodate such HF clients unconditionally on allocation and unconditionally agree not to evict during the HF tenancy!
These aspects are taken as they will happen by the deluded Housing First advocates and why they vehemently object to any real scrutiny of their extremely theoretic model that cannot work in practice which would be exposed by real independent scrutiny rather than Crisis PR propaganda or paid consultancy / paid academic reports saying what the clients wants them to say.
If you still believe that England does not need a root and branch and fully independent enquiry into the Housing First model and the impacts of scaling up this model then you are seriously mistaken. However, if you want more visible rough sleepers on the streets and more ‘aggressive begging’ and more retail outlets arguing for business rate reductions due to rough sleepers outside retail premises during the day and reducing footfall and thus retail profits, and all the other nefarious claims, then go ahead and lobby for the scaling up of the Housing First model and panacea that can only increase rough sleeper numbers
England’s most housing vulnerable, those without a roof that we call rough sleepers deserve far better than the Housing First unworkable farrago
I forgot to source the comparative visiting care funding costs in the above and below is from a 2017 BBC website article on the funding crisis in social care which detailed average per hour funding cost for visiting care services (UKCHA – UK Care Home Association.)