Strategy seeks to reduce homelessness

17 March 2017

SUSAN FRANCIS

Writing on the wall: an image from a film installation, “Do I Know You?, exploring the issue of homelessness, at Salisbury Cathedral earlier this month. The film, by the artist Susan Francis, was part of the project “Word on the Streets”, inspired by conversations with homeless people in the area

Writing on the wall: an image from a film installation, “Do I Know You?, exploring the issue of homelessness, at Salisbury Cathedral earlier thi...

A NEW strategy to take homeless people off the streets and put them straight into permanent housing is being considered by the Government.

The “Housing First” strategy, which has been piloted in Manchester, provides secure housing to people who have complex needs, without asking them to break addictions or seek treatment first. Under the current model, people have to seek treatment before being offered accommodation.

Numbers of homeless have soared in the past seven years (News, 27 January). More than 4000 people are now thought to be homeless on any given night, government figures suggest.

Adopting a Housing First strategy is the key recommendation of a report on rising homelessness by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a think tank set up by the former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith.

The CSJ estimates that moving all homeless adults with complex needs into housing immediately would save the Government about £200 million per year. The CSJ called on the Government to invest £110 million to secure homes in the private rented sector for those who are long-term or recurrent homeless, and to provide continuing care once they are housed. A similar housing-first strategy in Finland has dramatically reduced the numbers of rough sleepers.

The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that he is keen to consider the scheme as a way of tackling rising homelessness and rough sleeping.

The national youth homelessness charity Depaul has welcomed the Housing First recommendation. It said: “At a time when homelessness continues to rise, and nearly half of people living in homeless hostels are aged between 16 to 24, it is clear we need to do more to prevent young people from becoming homeless.”

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