We’re pleased to present today the final evaluation of the Leeds pilot scheme of “Housing First”, offering secure homes for a number of sex workers with extremely complex needs. Thought to be the first of its kind in the country, the project has been evaluated by a researcher from the University of Leeds, Emma Bimpson, a postgraduate researcher who looks at ways housing and homelessness providers have responded to austerity.
The non-judgmental, unconditional and flexible approach Basis takes 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. With little women-only housing provision in the city and high levels of sexual and domestic violence risks associated with street sex work, we identified an urgent need for a service that was driven by women’s experiences, applying the principles of Housing First.
Housing First provides permanent, affordable and safe housing as quickly as possible – backed by the unconditional support people need to stay in their new homes.
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WY-FI)’s Innovation Fund., the aims were to relieve homelessness, alcohol and drug use, reoffending and mental health issues. The funding provided a dedicated caseworker from Basis Yorkshire and a housing support worker from Leeds homeless charity Foundation
.Report author Emma Bimpson, from the University’s School of Sociology and Social Policy, 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.”
Women helped by the Housing First project were a part of the country’s growing group of “hidden homeless”, so-called because the nature of their employment or lifestyles means they are often not counted in official statistics. For some of these women, access to housing means enduring domestic violence or other unhealthy relationships. For some it means staying with drug dealers, exchanging sex for somewhere to sleep, “sofa-surfing” with friends – or sleeping on the streets.
Other approaches to housing are not designed to meet the sheer complexity and volume of such women’s needs. Even temporary housing options such as hostels or sheltered accommodation are often not an option because of strict access conditions relating to substance abuse or curfews – which restrict sex workers’ access to an income. The dedicated, assertive, trauma-informed and flexible support provided by the caseworker and housing support worker was critical, supporting multiple visits by some of the tenants to healthcare professionals and coordinating multiple services.
Ms Scire, CEO of Basis Yorkshire: “The direct and indirect 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,” she said.
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.”
Ms Bimpson, added: “Housing First can’t solve homelessness alone, nor should it be the only solution. But it demonstrates how people’s needs might not be met by existing housing and homelessness services, and the evidence collected from the Basis project and others across the UK is a testament to the success of this approach. It’s also really important to note that Housing First sits within a wider system of essential services, so those have to be in place and effectively coordinated for it to work.”
We’re also very proud to have successfully secured a further three years of funding for the scheme, from the Tudor Trust.
Download the final report: Basis Housing First Final Report March 2018