About Housing First
Housing First (HF) is a scheme which originated in the US and aims to provide unconditional access to housing and support for those people whose needs are not being met by existing housing or homelessness services. Housing First is based on the principle that stable and suitable housing should be provided without restrictions based on personal circumstances or life choices. Intensive personalised support and housing management are provided alongside each other without one being dependent on the other.
Basis Housing First Project
Basis Yorkshire has been running a Housing First Project in Leeds since November 2016 , originally in collaboration with Foundation Housing (funded by WYFI) and since early 2018 with Turning Lives Around (funded now for 3 years by Tudor Trust). The service provided by Basis is one of the only sex worker specific projects in the country and has met significant needs for women who were previously falling through the gaps of existing services.
Gemma Sciré, CEO of Basis Yorkshire: “Our non-judgemental, unconditional and flexible approach to working with sex workers is focused on reducing harm and providing choices for women. It made our service an ideal fit with Housing First.”
Nicky Pickup is the dedicated support worker for women who, through Housing First are housed across all areas of Leeds through the Basis project. Having a small case load allows her to provide intensive personalised support in a variety of areas that is needs based and client led. This includes women indicating where they might want to live which we try to accommodate as best we can. Sue Oates from Turnng Lives Around works alongside Basis to support the women with the housing management side helping with tasks such as keeping housing benefit in payment, organising repairs and lock changes and ensuring they understand their responsibilities as tenants. This distinction in roles enables a wrap around support service that allows women to engage with support at their own pace without risking their tenancy or other support services. Unlike in supported housing, there are no obligations for the women to engage with support but it is made clear that support is always readily available whenever it is needed. More information on eligibility and how to refer can be found here.
Providing housing for people with complex needs presents a unique set of challenges as their personal needs must be met as well as ensuring they integrate with the local community. We measure the success of our service based on the positive improvements the women we support make to their lives, which in turn should lead to positive relations with the local community.
Our evaluation report shows positive improvements in areas such as offending, substance use, physical and mental health and engagement with other support services has been recorded. Specifically the physical health needs of two service users were so severe before entering the Housing First service one was at risk of having her leg amputated and another was told it was unlikely she would leave hospital. These health outcomes have now turned around completely with them being being supported to manage their health and achieve further outcomes in other areas of their lives. Other professionals have highlighted the positive impact Housing First has had on client’s engagement. It has ensured that other professionals have had reliable workers they can contact with concerns and a secure address they can locate service users at and improved multi-agency working ,ensuring cost savings for all. A reduction in accessing emergency or crisis services has also undoubtedly led to cost savings for the local authorities and/or health services.
Gemma Scire: “The wider benefits of this programme to both service users and stakeholders cannot be overstated either. Women with highly complex needs are no longer in a spiral of chaos, and improved housing stability was found to lead to stability in other aspects of their lives too.”
As one of the women taking part in the scheme said: “This is the first time in a couple of years that I have felt secure and happy with my housing situation – things can only get better.”
Report author Emma Bimpson, from the University’s School of Sociology and Social Policy, who undertook the evaluation said: “The journey these women took through the project was far from straightforward and at times chaotic, so the intensive and immediate support provided by Basis’ support worker and by Foundation’s tenancy manager was absolutely vital.”
If you would like to have a more detailed look at the successes and challenges of our Housing First project you can read the Housing First Final Evaluation Report by Emma Bimpson of the University of Leeds.