Tag Archives: rough sleepers

Cross Keys Homes’ rough sleeper scheme proves how intensive support can transform lives

A joint two year project between Cross Keys Homes (CKH) and Peterborough City Council has enabled rough sleepers in the city to quickly access the highest levels of support so they can transition from life on the street into sustained accommodation. Homes for Cathy spoke to Cross Keys Homes’ Assistant Director, Housing Needs, Ali Manji, to learn more about how their Rough Sleepers Floating Support Initiative has helped to transform the lives of people with complex needs.

How did the scheme come about?

Back in 2019, Peterborough City Council partnered with CKH to bid for Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) government funding to provide a dedicated floating support worker in Peterborough for rough sleepers. This was awarded for a one-year period and was extended until March 2021 due to the success of the scheme. The floating support worker was managed solely by CKH and helped to provide temporary accommodation to rough sleepers, as well as the one-to-one support required to establish a helpful, positive, and constructive relationship, mapping a clear pathway into more permanent accommodation. 

Referrals were made by Peterborough City Council’s housing needs officers using the following criteria for rough sleepers:

•             Required support to start and maintain their tenancy; 

•             Had no other support in place to sustain their accommodation; and

•             A willingness to engage with the support service.

What type of support was offered?

Alongside sustaining tenancies, it was recognised that there was a need to help individuals access services for their health including substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as reconnect with family members and back into society, and help them to overcome the many other challenges they faced. Intensive support was offered delivering targeted tenancy-focused intervention, via direct work and signposting. This included taking clients to pre-booked appointments, helping them to engage with other agencies to build upon their skills, and empowering and enabling individuals to develop independently and become responsible tenants in the long-term.

What did you learn from running the scheme?

During the two-year project, successful multi-agency work with reliable contacts and good working relationships were formed, which were essential to the success of this scheme. Thanks to this initiative, CKH have now adopted many of these principles internally to ensure rough sleepers who sign up for a CKH tenancy receive the dedicated ongoing one-to-one support they require to maintain their tenancy and overcome any challenges they face.

The average days of involvement with each client during this two-year initiative was 106. This ranged from the shortest at 18 days (prison recall) to the longest at 339 days.


Case study – Supporting a former rough sleeper with dementia to access a retirement living scheme

(from CKH’s floating support worker case notes)

A referral was received from Peterborough City Council’s Outreach team for TR, a 65 year old man who was found rough sleeping in the centre of town after a relationship breakdown.  TR had been in hospital and was discharged without a forwarding address, so the Outreach team arranged temporary bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation for him.

I first met with TR at the Garden House – a support base offering information, advice and support to rough sleepers. TR was suffering from early onset dementia. He had been accepted for a retirement housing property at a retirement living scheme, however the property he was moving into was unfurnished. TR was worried about moving, about how he would be able to make it a home, pay for household items and sort out his bills. I reassured him that I would be his dedicated support worker who would be able to help him with all these concerns and would accompany him to his new property to sign his tenancy and get the keys.

On our next contact we met with his scheme manager at the retirement property to sign his new tenancy. There were a lot of documents that TR had to go through and understand. TR was distressed as he was not retaining the information provided, so I went through the documents with him and broke the information down into bitesize points which he could understand more clearly. TR was concerned that the property was not something that he was able to afford so I spent the next hour with him making a list of outgoings that would need to be addressed with my help. When I returned TR to the B&B, I advised that I would be back the next day to move what little he had into his new home. TR seemed excited that he had his keys but also quite apprehensive about the thought of managing a home on his own.

TR moved into his property several days later, after I had arranged for a bed, chair, bedding, fridge freezer and microwave to be delivered.

Over the new few weeks, I had frequent calls from him regarding the list of things he needed to do. However, he was excited that he was able to get some decorating items from his new landlord and was about to paint the living room with his friend. During this time, I was able to collect and deliver more donated items for him including wardrobes and a bedside table, which helped to turn his house into a proper home. His new landlord also agreed to purchase a new cooker and have it installed.

During our next appointment, we were joined by an advisor from Housing Benefit who assessed TR and confirmed that his rent and standing charge would be covered by Housing Benefit and, whilst TR waited for his next Universal Credit payment, I provided him with a food bank voucher to help.

TR was now feeling much better and more in control knowing that he could afford to live in his home. I advised him that we needed to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) due to his mobility issues and his early onset dementia. TR was happy to do this, and work began to obtain this extra living cost for him, as well as help to apply for affordable tariffs to pay for his water, gas and electricity bills. 

Unfortunately, at this time lockdown occurred and I was unable to visit TR in person. Instead, I relied solely on the telephone updates from his scheme manager. TR was very hard to contact during this time but when I eventually managed to reach him, he informed me that he had been coping well. Lockdown had forced him to connect with his neighbours and they had been bringing him items of food. TR also informed me that he had been frequently having falls but could not get hold of his GP. I reminded him that he had his LifeLine (alarm pendant) which he needed to wear in case he had another fall. I contacted the scheme manager and asked if TR could be contacted by LifeLine every other day to ensure his safety.

TR completed his PIP interview by himself during lockdown and was awarded the extra living cost benefit. He had also been updating his budget planner and going through this each week with me during our now regular phone call catch ups.

When I was able to visit TR in person in August, we sat outside. TR advised me that his falls were increasing, that he had lumps on his skin, and he had cut his finger but did not realise. I made an emergency appointment for him with his GP. I met him at the surgery the next day and he asked me to join him for the consultation. TR had very low blood pressure and a few days later was admitted to hospital.

TR was put on appropriate medication and his memory improved. When I next visited him he was feeling much better and informed me that all his utility bills were up to date and he was continuing with his budget plan. He realised that during lockdown he had made a few bad health choices which led to him being admitted to hospital and didn’t want this to happen to him again.

I advised TR that I would call him every two weeks until the end of November given his accomplishments to date. This would ensure that he had his Warm Homes discount in place and then afterwards I would reduce contact to once a month until March. This was to ensure that he was still getting the help he required from his GP’s surgery, his retirement housing scheme and that he was keeping up to date with his utility bills but also enabled him to become even more independent in sustaining his tenancy by himself.

At the end of this period, I did not feel that TR required any further assistance. He was coping well on his own and managing all aspects of his tenancy.  And still to this day, TR continues to be very happy and settled in his home at the retirement living scheme.


Cross Keys Homes is a commercial business with a social heart, managing 11,000 properties across the East of England for social housing, shared ownership, private rent and leasehold.

The social landlords making Housing First work

Homes for Cathy hears from three member organisations that have played a role in getting Housing First schemes off the ground to discover the challenges housing associations face in making the model a success.

Developed in the US in the 80s and adopted with widespread success in mainland Europe, Housing First is an evidence-based approach to homelessness intervention that has gained significant momentum in the UK over the past three years.

Heralded as a solution to our growing rough sleeping crisis, the approach takes entrenched rough sleepers with high and complex needs off the streets and into permanent accommodation with intensive, tailored and open-ended support.  Unlike traditional approaches to homelessness intervention, with Housing First no preconditions are placed on individuals, only a willingness to maintain their tenancy agreement.  Individuals are not required to address any other needs they might have, or engage with other services, in order to keep their home.

The model has attracted high profile support; in 2017 Theresa May pledged £28 million to fund three regional Housing First pilots in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands, the Scottish government is investing £6.5 million in a three year Housing First roll-out and in Wales, £700,000 has been allocated by the government for Housing First schemes.  

Aside from these pilots, many more Housing First schemes have been launched at local level – around two thirds of these have been funded by local authorities, usually through Housing Related Support budgets, according to Housing First England.

Social landlords have been called upon to help get schemes off the ground, by providing both accommodation and in some cases the wraparound support that is intrinsic to making the model work.  However, the relative infancy of Housing First in the UK means the model represents uncharted waters for most housing associations, and many face a steep learning curve in establishing schemes. 

Securing funding and pilot projects

Gaining board approval and securing funding is only the tip of the iceberg in what can be a lengthy process.  Homes for Cathy member, Soha Housing, worked with its key local authority, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), which put up joint funding for a pilot project of six properties from Soha’s housing stock. 

Maureen Adams, Soha’s Director of Services and Communities, comments:

“SODC helped establish a Project Board and provided access to homeless people with complex needs, suggesting ways to manage the risks and establish a framework that would be acceptable to homeless people, the local community, and politicians alike.

“We then worked with Aspire, a local specialist charity with expertise in homelessness and staff skilled in handling vulnerability and substance misuse, who provided extensive pre-engagement activity with service users.”

Stephanie Wood, Head of Supported Housing at Homes for Cathy member Sovereign Housing, which is involved with Housing First schemes in West Berkshire and on the Isle of Wight in partnership with charity Two Saints, says:

“Housing associations need to consider that it can take a very long time to get Housing First schemes up and running.  A lot of work happens to get everyone on the same page before a person is housed, from identifying suitable people through to building their trust and getting their buy in.  Every stakeholder in the project needs to be realistic about the timescales involved, particularly as there are usually multiple agencies working together.”

Establishing eligibility

Establishing eligibility is an important part of the process.  While stakeholders involved in setting up schemes may have a good knowledge of individuals who would be suitable, in a multi-agency approach, ideas can differ. 

Daniel Revell-Wiseman, Care and Supported Housing Contracts Manager for Hightown Housing Association, which is working with both St Albans District Council and Dacorum Borough Council in Hemel Hempstead to launch a Housing First scheme, comments:

“Working across areas can be a challenge, as in each area there can be differing needs in terms of who is a priority for housing. Having a strong criteria for the service is therefore essential in order to easily assess the individuals who could benefit the most.”

The longer timescales necessary to identify suitable tenants and carry out pre-engagement work can have ramifications for landlords in terms of the accommodation they have identified for schemes. 

Daniel adds:

“To be true to the Housing First model, we should identify the service user first and then find suitable property.  However, in reality, we have found possible properties before we have had referrals.  It can be a challenge to have homes available at the point you need them – registered providers need to be prepared for longer void periods as a result.”

Flexible approach

Indeed, flexibility is key to making the model work – for Sovereign this was a matter of re-thinking pre-conceived ideas of what type of accommodation would be suitable.

Stephanie Wood says:

“Previously, we had set principles of what our Housing First homes should look like – for example, not in a town centre so service users could not go back to their old way of life.  However, we’ve come to realise that the best type of accommodation is always very specific to the resident.  Now we take time to match the accommodation to the individual, and although they don’t go through choice based lettings, we do offer them some flexibility about where they want to go.”

One of the biggest learning curves for housing associations is around formalising new processes and systems that meet the Housing First approach, establishing what is and what isn’t needed and adapting the existing mindset within their organisation.

Sovereign reviewed its tenancy agreement and tenancy sign up processes to better suit the Housing First model, making the meeting to go through the tenancy agreement a different day to the sign up itself.  This approach has minimised potential distractions and allowed staff time to spend setting expectations, while giving tenants the opportunity to process the information and ask questions. 

Sign up takes place in a neutral place other than Sovereign’s offices or the accommodation, to provide a less intimidating, less formal environment.

Stephanie adds:

“It’s all about gaining the trust of the tenant; they may have had a bad experience with a housing association or other service provider in the past, for example in a hostel the service provider runs.”

Once Housing First tenants are in their accommodation, flexibility around rent is also crucial to making the model work. 

Comments Stephanie:

“We’re offering fixed term tenancies, so we’re carrying a big chunk of risk.  Despite this, we have had to be more relaxed in terms of collecting rent.  For example, we recently had a hiccup with a Universal Credit application – our income team reported that no application had been processed, but because the tenant was flagged up on our system as Housing First, we did not pursue the normal income recovery procedures.”

Measuring success

So far, all three housing associations report positive feedback from the Housing First schemes in which they’re involved, however with a model that centres on open-ended support, continued funding remains a key consideration.   

Soha’s Maureen Adams concludes:

“Several months after the scheme was launched, Soha has housed 13 nominations and is moving people who would be difficult to house through traditional choice based lettings routes into homes where they want to live. 

“It’s been an important new venture that staff and residents are backing, including our chief executive, who helped steer it through at board level.  However, gathering evidence of the scheme’s success will be imperative, particularly as we plan to approach other public funded bodies to seek additional funding in order to extend the project. To this end, we have commissioned an independent evaluation by a social research agency to ensure we are adhering to the Housing First principles.”

For more information on Housing First, including guidance and toolkits for social landlords, visit Housing First England.

Is your organisation involved in a Housing First scheme?  We would love to hear about your experiences, the challenges you have faced and advice you would give to other organisations looking to implement the approach.  Email us at homesfor.cathy@hightownha.org.uk.