Homeless Jesus sculpture – Liverpool
Government guidance defines high level visiting housing support as 21 hours or more per week and today the Housing First pilots are saying intensive support can be delivered in 3 hours per week!
The Housing First model’s support offer is preposterously under specified and its ivory tower ideology is dangerous in the extreme and will lead to huge increases in rough sleeping and single homelessness.
Visiting (floating) housing support definition
In 2001 the circular A47/2001 was issued so local authority decision makers could decide if housing benefit claims to pay for visiting housing-related support were genuine. This is the only definition we have to levels of visiting or floating support and 3 hours per week rather than 3 hours per day reveals the woeful Housing First support offer and level.
- LOW level visiting support is 5 hours or less per person per week
- MED level visiting support is 6 to 21 hours per person per week
- HIGH level visiting support is 21+ hours per week / 3+ hours per day
There is no doubt that the client groups that Housing First seeks to support in single homeless persons and rough sleepers typically have a HIGH level of support need.
When you read Housing First research reports you find the support level of 3 hours per person per week being the norm. The large scale Housing First pilots in the Liverpool and Manchester areas are specifying that each visiting support worker has a caseload of 12 persons and which is 3 hours per person per week which is very LOW level support.
Rough sleepers and other single homeless persons the target client groups for Housing First need a HIGH level of support and a LOW level of support – the staple of the Housing First model – can never be enough to meet its intended client support need.
When you look at any Housing First literature you will also invariably see claims that its support is intensive and often the phrase that Housing First is more than intensive floating support. These are lies and deceits, known ones too, as intensive can only mean high and Housing First support levels are de facto low level support.
The LOW level support Housing First offers is one reason why landlords private and social will not come forward with the housing offer too and the two matters are inextricably linked. The recently closed Sheffield Housing First service was abandoned as a mere 10 properties could not be found in a city of 241,000 properties … in two and a half years of trying!
A key practical issue in getting Housing First and any supported housing service off the ground is persuading landlords that their properties would be safe and looked after with the riskier clients groups that all supported housing residents are seen as by landlords and rough sleepers and single homeless persons one of the most riskier groups too. Therefore a necessary selling point to landlords is the regularity of the visits to these perceived riskier tenants. Visiting every day as the 3 hours per day of a HIGH level support service means reassures landlords that every day their properties would be seen and any damage or misuse of the property could be nipped in the bud. Yet Housing First support workers only visit one day per week instead of seven and the landlord rightly sees this as a seven times higher risk and refuses to provide the property!
Note this 3 hours support offer is not face to face but total time from reviewing the case file to travelling to the HF client and then travelling back and updating the client case file. That is just for planned support and ignores the majority of the support and support time needed by the HF client cohort that will be reactive support to deal with when and not if the proverbial hits the fan (sanctions and other everyday issues) and which the Housing First model ignores totally and why it can never be suitable or effective.
Housing First is ivory tower ideology gone mad when it comes to its support offer.
A few weeks ago I made a point of attending a conference called Homelessness and Rough Sleeping – Who Cares? in Liverpool and where the Homeless Jesus sculpture was revealed to hear the guru (and I use that word correctly) of Housing First, Jon Sparkes the chief executive of Crisis talk about it and the level of ideological and blind belief in this model was not only staggering it was extremely dangerous. Sparkes said:-
- Only 18,000 of the 170,000 UK at any time homeless need support
- Housing First is not a bolt-on to existing services but a replacement
Jon Sparkes also said that we have 12,000 at any one time rough sleepers in the UK and we know as fact we also have 42,000 single homeless hostel dwellers making the single homeless and target Housing First cohort 54,000 at any one time. To say just 18,000 of this 54,000 or only 1 in 3 of them require support is inconceivable as is saying 2 in every 3 only require a roof over their head and do not need any support. It is delusional in the extreme and extremely dangerous. It also means Jon Sparkes is saying hostel providers are claiming funding under false pretences as 2 in 3 of residents do not have support needs!
This extremely dangerous view of support and support number and for which there is not one iota of substantiation is given by Jon Sparkes, is made a thousand times worse with his assertion that the Housing First model replaces the existing homeless hostel or resettlement model.
To fund Housing First services means that existing hostels would need to be defunded as the funding is finite, in short it means throwing the baby out with the bathwater and once a hostel is defunded it closes out of financial necessity never to be reopened.
Sparkes was exasperated with Government for only permitting the three larger scale Housing First services in the Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham areas as he said of the talks he had with government “Frankly, why we are having pilots when we know it works…”- a sentence left unfinished. This reveals his closed mind and his zealotry for the Housing First model and saying he KNOWS it works is a chronic deceit and delusion.
We know it is working in Finland yet as I explained in detail here Finland is not the UK and it has very different variables that are wholly absent in the UK and which I distilled and reproduce below.
Unless Housing First in the UK replicates these necessary conditions above for the Finnish Housing First model to work in the UK then Housing First in the UK will not work! There is absolute no chance of these variables being replicated in the UK unless you believe landlords will offer 1 bed properties at £30 – £35 each per week which is the UK equivalent of average 1 bed market rent and include free gas, electricity, water and broadband which is what the Finnish Housing First property offers. The Finnish Housing First residents also get social security benefit that is 3 times the UK level too and a whole host of guaranteed wraparound services also not available here in the UK.
In short, anyone who believes you can drop in the Housing First model into the vastly different UK housing market is deranged and deluded and nothing more than a snake oil salesman.
When the Housing First model fails and local authority commissioners have closed the homeless hostels in their areas by defunding in order to fund the all bells and whistles Housing First model the shit will really hit the fan and homeless and rough sleeper numbers right across the UK will dramatically increase. The Housing First model is ivory tower madness that nobody must touch with a bargepole.
It is hugely ironic that the Housing First model means that the housing is provided first yet that housing offer is not achievable because of the risible support offer that is central to Housing First! As such Housing First becomes a chronic misnomer in the UK.
The seismic news this past week that government is proposed to ban no-fault evictions and removing the ease of s21 notices in getting rid of tenants will further reduce the availability of housing availability for Housing First and all vulnerable tenants who need support whether low or high level.
I will end and summarise this piece before it becomes overlong and doesn’t get read though there are literally dozens of other issues some of which are highly complex concerning housing benefit regulations that need to be raised and which will create huge difficulties for the Housing First model
To summarise the housing offer of Housing First is not achievable, the support offer of Housing First is wholly inadequate and the hyperbole that the Finnish model can be parachuted in to the UK and UK Housing First models can mirror the successes of the Finnish model is delusion of a preposterous level.
The huge danger is WHEN Housing First fails commissioners and budget-holders will adopt the position that we have tried the radical option that the homeless ‘experts’ assured us would work and thus homelessness must be unsolvable. During that time local commissioners will have defunded current homeless hostel provision which will close it and local authorities will have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and be left with a much higher level and cost of homelessness and nowhere for homeless persons to go. The fact there is so little effective scrutiny and consideration of what the Housing First model actually is simply HAS to change else UK homelessness and UK rough sleeping will explode in number.