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Housing First for Youth Principles

By Hugh Russell - Project Manager, End Youth Homelessness Cymru

Today, we are publishing a set of principles that should guide the people and organisations delivering Housing First for young people in Wales.

Fundamental to anyone’s ability to put a period of homelessness behind them is the need to secure a suitable home, in a place where that person can access all the networks, opportunities and support that we all need to get on in life.

Young people are no different, though their experiences of homelessness and becoming homeless can differ from those who are older than 25. Crucially, services that work with these young people should recognise and be sensitive to this.

To meet the housing needs of some young people in this vulnerable situation, a number of Housing First for Youth services have been developed in Wales over the last year, working hard through the pandemic to ensure that young people can access the housing and support that they need. As is the case with the Housing First model, accommodation is offered to young people who need it, without demands that they are ‘housing-ready’ or asking that they commit to engaging with intensive support. Housing First for Youth is a model predicated on the understanding that young people have a right to housing.

As Chair of the Welsh Housing First for Youth sub group of the Housing First Network [LINK: Cymorth Cymru :: Housing First], ably supported by Cymorth Cymru, I’ve been involved in bringing together those practitioners who are working to deliver this innovative approach for young people in Wales. The sub group and wider Network offer a space for those delivering the service to share learning and challenges, with members from England and Scotland contributing their experiences too.

Fundamental to the success of Housing First for Youth schemes delivered elsewhere has been the adherence of practitioners to a core set of principles, which set out what a young person should expect from the service. Developed by Stephen Gaetz, the President & CEO of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, based on the original Housing First principles, these principles set out a way of working which has young people’s specific needs in mind, but still ensure the delivery of those fundamentals through which Housing First has seen such success.

These fundamentals include, but are not limited to: housing without preconditions; respect for the choices of the individual being supported; positive development; individualised support without time limit; the availability of help for people to integrate into their chosen communities. 

The approach taken in Wales, shared by members of our network, is firmly rooted in these principles. In the same way that the Housing First Network developed a set of Wales-centric principles based on the original set, we came together in the Housing First for Youth sub group to consider what the principles meant in practice, discussing how we would interpret principles like ‘positive youth development and wellness orientation’.

Based on these conversations, we adapted Gaetz’s core principles to reflect how Housing First for Youth providers in Wales work. The resultant set of 10 principles adopted by the Welsh network adhere to the model’s fundamentals, while recognising the progressive, collaborative approach that support providers in Wales offer, building in strengths-based approaches, as a principle, for instance. This exercise gave us opportunity to narrow down and specify what good, youth-specific practice looks like too, with transitions between services (e.g. between CAMHS and adult mental health services) noted as a point of particular tension for young people, where they might often benefit from specific support.

These conversations have enabled us to really interrogate what this model looks like in practice in Wales. As with all aspects of support for young people at the moment, Housing First for Youth practitioners are working hard to adapt to the difficulties presented by COVID-19, but with this set of collaboratively developed principles, grounded in years of development by colleagues abroad, I am confident that this promising approach to helping to end youth homelessness in Wales will be successful.

I am excited to announce the publication of these principles – those with any questions or comments should email housingfirst@cymorthcymru.org.uk.

 

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