A year on, Hightown’s Housing First experience

It’s nearly been a year since Hightown began its Housing First project so we’ve caught up with Gemma Richardson, Head of Care and Supported Housing in Hertfordshire at Hightown, to find out how the project has been going and what the future holds.

What is Housing First?

Housing First is a housing and support approach which gives people who have experienced homelessness or repeat history of homelessness or rough sleeping and who have multiple and complex needs, a stable home from which to rebuild their lives. It provides intensive, person-centred, holistic support that is open-ended (defined by Homeless Link).

Hightown launched its pilot in October 2019 following the recruitment of new staff. The project has been going well, with eight people housed by the service with another two people being actively helped.  Two individuals are engaging with the Housing First team after years of rough sleeping and want to move into housing and receive the team’s support.

How has the pilot been going?

There have some positive stories from the people that have been helped so far, including Malcolm and Liana, featured in the video below. Have a listen to hear why Housing First is needed in addition to the other homelessness services that Hightown help to run. 

However, there have also been many points to learn from over the last year. For example, there have been a couple of individuals that have really struggled, since they have very complex needs. Finding the right Housing First offer for them in terms of both housing and support, is being reassessed. This is one of the key differences of this programme compared to other homelessness support as the housing and support given is very personalised so it may not be right straight away and changes may need to be made. The team are doing some very intensive work with a couple of individuals and working with all partners involved in the project including Homeless Link, the project management staff from Housing First England and Hightown’s local partners. Together we are trying to help them move forward and make sure they don’t return to the street

The programme takes a partnership approach, can you tell us more about this? 

The project is funded from Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) funding, which was awarded following a joint bid by Dacorum Borough Council and St Albans City Council. The partnership working with Dacorum Borough Council and St Albans City Council has been integral to developing the Housing First project.

There is a monthly Housing First panel which is made up of local homelessness charities, the local councils and Hightown. We exchange information, talk about who is engaging with the service, identify who needs to be helped and discuss which housing options are available. The panel act as our project managers and help us keep on track and check our performance.

What’s next for Housing First?

The current RSI funding for Housing First runs until March 2021. We hope that further funding will be made available so we can continue this important work. We are building our case to secure longer term funding, since we think Housing First should be an option for people across the county and the existing homelessness support isn’t going to fit everybody’s needs. There will always be some people who need more support than the day / night centres can offer. For some people night shelters and supported living cannot meet all their needs.

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