Housing First pilot 'highly commended' at UK Housing Awards

Threshold – part of the New Charter Group – was highly commended at the UK Housing Awards in London last week for their innovative approach to ending homelessness. The event, which is run by the Chartered Institute of Housing, recognises the movers, shakers and innovators in the housing sector.

Housing First is a ground-breaking model for tackling homelessness that turns the traditional model on its head, operating on the basis that support is much more effective when those who receive it are much more likely to respond if they are in secure, stable accommodation rather than refuges or temporary shared lodgings. It has already proven successful in the US, Canada and Finland and Threshold is one of the first to trial the model in the UK.

Its pilot scheme focuses on female ex-offenders. This one of the most vulnerable groups with a unique and highly complex set of needs, yet since the project started in 2015 it has achieved extraordinary results. Early indicators show that it has achieved 80% sustainability of new tenancies, zero re-offending rates and almost no rent arrears.

This is down to the ‘persistent and consistent’ support that their clients receive. Once housed, Threshold’s Housing First clients receive intensive, wrap-around support from keyworkers that is tailored to their needs. This includes regular check-ins and even those who refuse to engage are not given up on. There are no conditions to being housed (such as abstinence from alcohol and other substances) or other ‘hoops’ to jump through, nor are there any arbitrary timelines for support, unlike more traditional models. Support is simply given until the client decides they no longer need it and can live a normal, functioning life without it.

Whilst some commissioners may be put off by this intensive and open ended support mechanism due to the potential cost of the Housing First, Amanda Bloxsome, Threshold’s Housing First manager, is keen to stress the cost benefit and social impact of the model. “Although implementation of Housing First may seem costly at first glance, our cost-benefit analysis show as a return of 1:25, meaning that for every £1 spent, the taxpayer actually saves £2.51. This is because our clients are much less likely to re-offend, have substance abuse problems or other health issues, which vastly reduces the cost to the NHS and the police.”

Since the project began, Threshold have been providing case studies, statistics and cost benefit analyses to the University of York, who are using this information to form part of independent study into the effectiveness of Housing First. The figures quoted above were taken from an early version of the report, however the full and final version is due for publication later this month.  

Threshold is hoping to use what it has learnt from the pilot scheme to expand its operation into other areas. As Mushtaq Khan, New Charter Group’s Director of Commercial & Partnerships puts it: “We chose women ex-offenders to pilot this scheme as not only was there a gap in provision for this group of people, but they are traditionally they have the most complex set of needs, from substance abuse to domestic violence. We’ve been able to learn so much in terms of best practice that we’re now in a fantastic place to be able to expand into other areas.”

As for being ‘Highly Commended’ he added: “It’s an honour that Housing First has been recognised at the UK Housing Awards. Homelessness is a huge problem that we’re faced with in today’s society and we believe that Housing First can play a huge part in ending the crisis, so it’s fantastic that it is getting the recognition it deserves.”


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