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Housing First and coordinated services – key to ending poverty

Last week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launched a comprehensive strategy to solve poverty in the UK.  In it, they call on the Government, and wider society, to work together to address poverty following a five-point plan.

Homeless Link, as part of the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition, contributed to a section of the report focused on ending poverty amongst adults with multiple and complex needs.  Persistent and interconnected problems – such as homelessness, substance misuse, mental ill health and contact with the criminal justice system – make it extremely difficult for many people to leave poverty. 

We are delighted that Housing First is identified as a key approach to supporting this vulnerable group.  This is an approach that prioritises access to housing instead of requiring people to resolve other issues first. Through our Housing First England project, we are working strategically with national and local government to make it a viable housing option in England, in addition to supporting the homelessness sector to design and deliver effective services.

We hope that the Government reads and responds to this report, and considers the role it can play in enabling solutions like Housing First to be scaled up across the country. We feel the recent Communities and Local Government Committee report on homelessness misunderstood the nature and use of Housing First, and have written to the chair of the Committee to offer additional advice.

Evidence shows that Housing First is an effective solution for addressing homelessness, but it is not a panacea. For people to move forward in their lives, they need both stable housing and effective and coordinated support. In our work through the MEAM coalition, we are supporting local areas to ensure different agencies work in partnership, helping people to address their wider health and social needs and move out of poverty for good.

These approaches are mutually supportive, and depend on a skilled workforce and sustainable funding for the public and voluntary sector services that people with multiple and complex needs require. It is therefore vital that there is national coordination across government to address the issues faced by people with multiple and complex needs.  

Our work on Housing First England and through the MEAM coalition is deeply informed by the experiences and insights of people with lived experience, and the frontline practitioners that support them. Through the development of the strategy, we assisted the JRF in engaging with these groups and ensuring that their views were reflected.

At the launch of the strategy, Julia Unwin said that “action to tackle poverty is everyone’s responsibility.” Through our work on Housing First England and through the MEAM Coalition, we are committed to playing our part, and ensuring the voices of those worst-affected by poverty are heard.

Jo Prestidge leads Housing First England, and Sam Thomas manages policy work for the Making Every Adult Matter coalition.

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