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Housing

Scotland passes ‘significant milestone’ of 400 Housing First homes

The model has been billed as the solution to rough sleeping and continues to grow ‘like a weed’ in Scotland, according to Housing First founder Sam Tsemberis

Scotland has hit a “significant milestone” to move 400 vulnerable people into Housing First homes for the first time as the model continues to grow in influence across the country.

Housing First provides housing as a first step to help rough sleepers off the streets alongside support to give them the best chance of maintaining their home. The model has seen success in Finland and is billed by many as a key part of the solution to street homelessness.

Housing First has proven successful in Scotland too.The country’s Housing First Pathfinder programme has created 404 tenancies as of December 31 last year with an additional 22 tenancies added that month. 

The new figures from Homeless Network Scotland show that 88 per cent of tenants have remained in their homes over the first full year of the programme despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sir Andrew Cubie, chair of the Housing First Scotland Advisory Group, said: “This hugely significant milestone is wonderful news, coming as it does after such a challenging year. Through continued successful partnerships across the Pathfinder areas, and in defiance of the virus and its impact on normal life, more than 400 people have now moved into a safe, secure home of their own.

Speaking to the Big Issue recently, Housing First founder Sam Tsemberis said the progress with the model in Scotland was “inspiring” and continues to grow “like a weed”.

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Glasgow also hit a milestone for tenancies, reaching 150 while there are 64 people in Housing First homes in Dundee, 92 in Edinburgh and 11 in Stirling.

In Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire there are 80 people living in Housing First tenancies, including teenager Alex Lyon who told The Big Issue that without the programme he would be stuck sleeping on the streets or staying with friends.

The 18-year-old, who has been living in his flat since November 2019 after, said: “I was looking at buying my own flat but I didn’t have the money because I’m on benefits so it was really difficult for me to find a place to stay.

“I kept bouncing back and forth between friends and sometimes people I didn’t even know. I’d probably still be there without Housing First.”

Housing First continues to be central to the response to homelessness across the UK. The model has become more prevalent in England and Wales and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said lessons learned from Housing First pilots are being applied to help rough sleepers living in hotels during the pandemic to make the switch to permanent homes.

But the model has been most widely embraced in Scotland, where Scottish Housing Survey estimates from before the Covid-19 pandemic found over 700 people bedding down on the streets in a single night. A total of 28 out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities are planning to adopt Housing First programmes.

That approach earned praise from model founder Sam Tsemberis, who told The Big Issue: “They’re doing an amazing job and there seems to be such an embrace of the model based on the humanity and the practical sensibility of it. 

“Housing First is like a plant and the culture of the country is the soil. The plant will struggle if the soil conditions – the economics and values – are challenging. The whole approach to helping others in Scotland? Fertile soil. The whole thing has grown like a weed and it is remarkable to see. It’s inspiring.”

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