Housing First is a methodology which provides suitable, long term housing for individuals or families together with wrap around services geared to individual needs. The underpinning philosophy is that services are more effective and have lasting impact once people are provided with security, privacy and control over their own lives before anything else.Based on successful programs in Finland and the UK, long term accommodation is identified as the first step to reducing homelessness and improving the chance of survival for the homeless. Support doesn’t stop at just providing a home. People often have complex or multiple needs. Once housed, social and practical skills such as cooking and cleaning and also skills to support their involvement in the community are offered. Adjusting to life under a roof and the associated responsibilities helps to provide a pathway to employment and breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Tenants are only obliged to meet the obligations of the tenancy agreement and can access services on a voluntary basis. Before a potential tenant/resident is taken on board an assessment of individual needs and circumstances would be made. Access to support services may be short term, time- bound or long term and ongoing depending on individual need. Providing individual ongoing support for social skills, practical skills, substance abuse or physical and mental health issues is often needed to help people turn their lives around, feel empowered and become part of the community.
Housing First – Key Principles from the Finnish model
- Housing enables independent lives
The person who is homeless can go straight to living in the accommodation. Health and social problems are addressed when housing is permanent and domestic peace is guaranteed.
- Respect of choice
The client has the opportunity to choose from treatments and services. For example, if the client does not want to completely give up intoxicants, they are not forced into doing so. Instead, a sufficient goal is to reduce the use of intoxicants and the harm caused by psychiatric symptoms so that the client will be able to live in their home. The services supporting recovery are constructed so that they respect the autonomy of the resident and strengthen their participation.
- Rehabilitation and empowerment
Interaction with the client aims at building trust and an atmosphere of communality, which help the client to rehabilitate and empower themselves on their own terms. The aim of dialogue and interaction is always to find solutions to the client’s situation together with them. The resident is consistently given positive feedback on even the smallest of everyday achievements.
- Integration into the community
The resident gets help to make their dwelling feel like a home. A home is a prerequisite for the resident being able to organise their own life and to feel involved in it and their environment. Having their own lease, for example, creates a feeling of permanence and thereby helps to feel connected to wider society. The resident is supported in keeping in contact with immediate networks such as their family and neighbourhood.
As the commitment to implementing the Housing First approach continues to grow around the world research has already shown this to be a more cost effective and long term sustainable approach to breaking the homeless cycle. This is what Avalon intends to replicate. The model we are adopting is one that we hope will inspire others.