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Defining Housing First during COVID

As we've written on this blog before, the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on homelessness and supporting people experiencing it in Wales. Housing First is, of course, part of this. Over the past few months, I've worked with Housing First providers – those new to delivering the model and those who have been doing so for years – to ensure that we are encouraging good practice and ensuring that the model stays true to the principles that we worked so hard to develop in Wales.

HF COVID19 Report - ENG.jpgHF COVID19 Report - CYM.jpgTo that end, today we are publishing a new document, Housing First in a COVID and post-COVID Wales, available in English and Welsh. Discussing each principle in turn, I've collaborated with people delivering Housing First on a daily basis, under a lot of pressure and with overstretched but dedicated teams, to highlight real and potential issues that have emerged or might emerge because of the pandemic.

We've also included clear, practical advice for the whole range of stakeholders involved in delivering Housing First, to help them to overcome these issues. This report aims to recognise the challenges, but ensure that we use this pandemic as an opportunity to consolidate and improve the delivery of Housing First in Wales, rather than dilute our approach.

One of the key considerations for the Housing First Network as the pandemic progressed was the extent to which HF schemes should be expected to comply with the principles in such challenging circumstances.

We understand that coronavirus is placing immense pressure on local authorities, housing and support providers, who have all worked incredibly hard to find accommodation and support for unprecedented numbers of people in a very short space of time. This has undoubtedly led to some compromises being made, such as balancing the need to house someone quickly, and giving them full choice and control over where they live. However, it is also vital that we preserve the Housing First model, and ensure it doesn't get eroded by such challenging circumstances.

The stance of the Housing First Network in Wales is this:

  • softening a principle, with good reason, and with a clear plan to return to that principle as soon as possible, does not mean an approach is not Housing First
  • However, abandoning a principle, even with justifiable reasons, means we cannot call a project Housing First

The document that we have published today aims to help Housing First providers to overcome the challenges posed by coronavirus and return to full fidelity as soon as possible.

It is also worth addressing some of the wider conversations taking place around the spectrum of housing-led approaches to homelessness, as these are core to the Welsh Government's plans for the transformation of services in Wales.

Rapid Rehousing diagram.jpgPage 5 of this document, produced by Crisis and Social Bite in Scotland, has a visual representation of what I'm about to explain. First, the housing-led spectrum has rapid rehousing at one end, with an increasing amount of wrap-around support for clients as we travel across the spectrum. At the other end, we have Housing First, which does involve housing people as quickly as possible (in the right places, of course), but with much more intensive support and, crucially, adherence to the HF principles.

To summarise what I've just written: Housing First and rapid rehousing are both found on the spectrum of what we call housing-led approaches to homelessness, but Housing First is a distinct model with very specific principles. And it is critical that Housing First schemes are delivered in line with all of these principles.

It is more important now than ever that we understand how effective housing-led approaches can be, and what the different components of that spectrum look like. As the Welsh Government and local authorities seek to increase the provision of Housing First it is essential that we are clear what the model entails and ensure that schemes are delivered in line with the principles.

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© Cymorth Cymru 2021
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774