A life-changing service providing housing and additional support for people rough sleeping is expanding to help more people.
Brighton & Hove’s Housing First service started in 2014. It initially helped 8 people, which increased to 10 in 2016 when homelessness charity St Mungo’s were awarded the contract.
Over the last year, the service has grown rapidly as part of the response to supporting people sleeping rough through the pandemic.
The service is currently supporting 50 people which, by the end of this year, is due to increase to around 60.
In addition, the council has secured extra funding for housing-led support based on the Housing First model, and will be extending the service further to help 30 more people.
Housing First offers personalised ‘wraparound’ support for people with a range of complex needs and a history of rough sleeping.
It provides the security of a home first before exploring additional intensive support to help people recover from homelessness.
The support is tailored to individual needs. This could mean, for example, help to deal with substance abuse; support to get treatment for mental or physical health problems; or assistance with accessing training or employment.
The service is commissioned by the council and run on its behalf by St Mungo’s.
Each person has the support of a St Mungo’s project worker, who is in regular contact with assistance and advice as needed, and links up with a variety of other organisations and agencies.
People live independently in housing provided by the council within local communities.
Local voluntary and faith groups have helped with donations of furniture and household items.
The Housing First model’s combination of a home and tailored support has had a positive impact on the lives of many people supported through the scheme, including improvements in health and wellbeing.
A report to the Housing Committee in September 2020 included the following examples of positive outcomes:
- living independently and successfully sustaining tenancies
- improvements in health and wellbeing
- reduction and abstinence from substance and alcohol misuse
- ongoing engagement with education, voluntary work, and training
- reconnecting with family and increased wellbeing
- improvements in physical health
- improved mobility due to engagement with health services
- improvements in dental health
“I feel supported but also independent”
Jonathan (not his real name) had been sleeping rough for years before being offered a flat through Housing First.
He said: “I feel ecstatic now. I honestly didn’t think I’d last it out. I didn’t think I would be able to pay my bills, but I do. Sophie, from St Mungo’s Housing First team, supports me through this and keeps me on track if I need her help. I feel supported but I also feel independent.
“My hopes for the future are to keep hold of my flat, to keep my two voluntary jobs going, and to remain substance free.
“I feel like I have woken up. I am part of a community and I chat to my neighbours every day. I love getting up early and catching the bus to work. I enjoy cooking roasts and baking cakes. One of my favourite things is to sit in the communal garden.”
Turning lives around
Councillor David Gibson, co-chair of the Housing Committee, said: “Housing First has a proven track record of helping the most entrenched homeless people who have been failed by regular homeless services.
“For this reason, we pledged in our manifesto and in the joint housing and homelessness programme to treble Housing First provision.
“I am delighted that this has been achieved already and heartened to see how it is helping people pick themselves up from rock bottom.
“There is always more needed and it would be great if we can find the resources to expand and help achieve a long term solution for more people who have been on the city’s streets on and off for years.”
Stephen Brett, Housing First Service Manager at St Mungo’s said: “Housing First represents an exciting moment in service delivery, a chance to try something genuinely different for people who have exhausted many of the pre-existing resources the city had to offer.
“The accommodation is dispersed across the city, consciously so. We believe that for some people living within a congregated setting hinders their chances of moving away from homelessness.
“We also acknowledge that there are challenges inherent within this offer and work hard with people to reduce the risk of isolation, maintain regular and consistent contact, co-ordinate support and provide motivation and encouragement.”
Housing First is one of a range of ways help is provided for people sleeping rough in the city.
We also have information about how you can help people living on the street.
If you are threatened with homelessness, please contact us to get advice as soon as possible. We can support you with any problems making it difficult to stay in your home.