Coffee cup on table, person wearing Action Homeless lanyard

Housing First – the good, the bad & everything in between

As Action Homeless’ Housing First initiative, funded by The Henry Smith Charity, approaches the end of its first year, we asked Housing First Officer Meg Jones to give us an insight into why the project is different to other approaches to ending homelessness.

Housing First – the good, the bad & everything in between

For me housing first was the obvious choice. Crisis with a side of laundry, coffee dates, drug appointments and endless heart-warming moments, what more could a girl want.

A day in housing first is the kind of day which you know will never happen again. Let me talk you through.

Within my project I have six high support clients (although this can raise to seven). These clients are those who are facing multiple disadvantage and those with multiple complex needs.

All these complex needs are what shape a day in the life of housing first. With housing first, I am fortunate enough to offer my clients flexible and intensive support, this could be once a week or each and every lovely day. This offers so much more than the classic one support session a week. My days are shaped around what the client needs that day and how much support they require; which I think is really quite special.

With this in mind, a day can vary massively. Some days there’s a huge focus on harm reduction, providing support for a mental health crisis, and other days frantically trying to stop goats from eating the feed bag on your trip to the farm. No day is the same.

The freedom and flexibility of housing first is something which I strongly believe sets the project miles apart from any other support currently on offer. Time is golden and that is something I can absolutely vouch for. With the small support numbers, I can offer time to go out with my clients, time to integrate people back into the community through things they enjoy, time for the appointments people don’t have the confidence to go to, the time to help people see that they are the same as everybody else, and the time for them to understand that it is not homelessness that defines them, they define themselves. Who’d have thought?

I have seen people grow from anger filled, substance using, lost but incredible individuals, to people who are part of the community, fresh and wanting to speed date Shakira at the local bingo. Anything goes. We all have our dreams and with the freedom of the Housing First project, I can encourage that.

It’s not all Shakira and coffees out however. Sometimes it’s hard. Managing a crisis with you as their only line to support is hard. I’d be lying if I said anything other. There have been days where I’ve seen people want to end their lives, times where people can’t see past the £480 of electric debt, but the speechless gasp of a wow as people go from rough sleeping in a graveyard, into a safe place to call home whilst truly turning their life around makes it all worthwhile.

I’ve worked across a few projects now and I can tell you for sure I wouldn’t go back.

I have seen first-hand the outstanding difference the support through Housing First can make. People have started to get their lives back on track for the first time in years, in a way which they would have never have imagined to be possible. People have found hope and the opportunity to just be themselves without all the surrounding chaos of street homelessness.

2021 Housing First so far has been 5 tenancies, 3 methadone scripts, 6 living independently in settled accommodation, Hep b treatments, the opportunity to regain their lives, library cards, clubcards and a whole load of chicken nuggets.

The time and way we support people is underestimated. Housing First as a project is underestimated. We have a responsibility to harness the good in people, to then foster and project that good in ways which our people understand, not ways we expect them to do so.

No day is the same, our people aren’t the same… sometimes people want to go joyriding, but sometimes we settle for coffee.

Meg Jones, Housing First Officer 

Would you be interested in joining our Housing First team? We currently have a vacancy for a Housing First Support Officer