UK Housing First advocates laud this model for reducing rough sleeper numbers in Finland and cite this as why the UK must adopt the HF model yet the number of rough sleepers in Finland more than doubled from 2018 to 2019 and in 2020 increased further to see Finland’s rough sleeper number now back where it was a decade ago in 2011.
The significance of Finland is the vociferous UK lobby for the Housing First model always cite Finland as the epitome of success in reducing rough sleeper numbers. It hasn’t worked. The UK has a huge number of HF advocates who promote the HF model in absurdist hyperbole akin to a cult with a smattering of anti-vaxxer thrown in as they refuse to accept either logic or fact and who … conveniently … forget to mention that rough sleeper numbers in Finland have more than doubled in official figures from the Finnish government ARA department.
Ten years ago in 2011 Finland had 1,221 yearly rough sleepers which fell to 512 in 2018 and now in 2020 is 1,210 and a simple chart below from the official ARA figures reveals this:
Crisis, other homeless lobbies and both the Conservatives and Labour have the Housing First model as policy and have long stated that as it works in Finland it therefore must work in the UK which is a crass non-sequitur; as is to say that Finland has massively reduced homelessness therefore that must be down to the Housing First model given the HF model ONLY addresses (some but not all) single homeless households and does not apply to homeless families with children and at best can only address single homelessness not family homelessness.
As I posted here last week even if the Housing First model is fully scaled up to its 16,450 finite capacity and works at 100% efficiency it will only cater for 0.5% of all yearly homeless persons in England and not be operable for the other 99.5% of homeless persons in England.
The HF model can never end homelessness and in England its finite capacity called for by Crisis and the CSJ think tank will only deal with 10% of rough sleepers at a support only cost of £150m per year that would mean £1.5 billion in support funding would be needed just for the Housing First model to cater for just the roofless rough sleeper number in England with the rent cost being additional to that. Those figures also assume no increase in roofless rough sleepers caused by Brexit, the pandemic arrears to eviction to homeless pathway or the recession that England is currently experiencing.
In almost 30 years of working in homelessness I fully support the aims of the Housing First model to make housing a (legal and) human right which it isn’t and to see every single homeless person and cohort who needs support to escape homelessness be guaranteed a right to help them escape it. Support and support funding is 100% discretionary and not a right at all in England and never has been. That needs to change just to try to end single homelessness yet just the cost of that and only for England’s rough sleepers would come to the circa £1.5 billion pa figure I mention above and extended to all single homeless cohorts would be a minimum of £5 billion per year just for support funding.
When the Tories policy says they will end rough sleeping by 2024 they are talking through their hat. When Crisis, Homeless Link and other homeless lobbies say we can end homelessness they too are talking through their hat whilst sitting on their elbows. When the Labour Party adopts the Housing First model as policy we see the shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell talking out of her hat and so does Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Andy Street the three metro mayors in whose areas the Housing First pilots are ongoing.
Whilst Crisis still provides the secretariat for the APPG Homeless committee we will see no scrutiny of the panacea they claim the Housing First model to be. While social (sic) landlords offer up just 11,000 of the 1 bed SRS properties per year (in official CORE data 2019/20) which the Housing First model is entirely dependent upon as these are the only permanent and unconditional properties that the model can use with these two central tenets then the HF model is an inevitable failure and Cloud Cuckoo Land reality in England.
Whilst the great and the good of the social rented sector such as CIH, NHF, Shelter and others assert that England only needs 90k to 130k new SRS properties of all shapes and sizes when it needs that number alone of 1 bed SRS properties at the social rent model just to stop single homelessness increasing … never mind reducing then single homelessness cohorts whether rough sleeper, hostel dweller, care leaver, prison leaver or single women in domestic abuse refuges are well and truly shafted.
When the official data in the English Housing Survey 2018/19 published July 2020 says England has a further 463,000 single homeless individuals who sofa surf in 386,000 homes of other persons each year and that over 92% of them are unknown to local councils (Annex Table 1.19) then every local authority homeless strategy written by every English council is not worth the paper it is written on as 427,000 single homeless sofa surfers rehousing needs are a factor not considered in them. And while Crisis assert England has just 71,400 total yearly sofa surfers when the EHS official data including the 155,000 homeless sofa surfing households with children are included England has circa 850,000 homeless men, women and children who ‘sofa surf’ we find and in official data published by government that England has 12 times the number of homeless sofa surfers than Crisis estimate.
If you think that England can ever end homelessness when its leading actors pay scant regard even to official data and fact as to the scale of homelessness then you may as well believe that the Housing First model will end homelessness and probably believe that drinking bleach will cure Covid-19 too!