Earlier this month, a new Housing First Pilot Project launched in Dumfries. Housing First is a concept developed in America which offers permanent accommodation to the most vulnerable and complexly disadvantaged people as quickly as possible and provides ongoing support to help them recover from any needs they may have, such as mental health and substance misuse issues.
The Scottish Government have been championing the roll-out of this approach across Scotland as part of their Ending Homelessness Together Policy.
The principles of Housing First are:
- Access to permanent housing with no housing readiness requirements
- Service User have choice and control
- Individualised and service user driven supports for as long as needed
- Housing and support are separate
- A harm reduction approach is adopted
- Social and community integration
The pilot project will be for a period of 2 years and looks to home and support up to 20 individuals during that period. The Council’s Housing Options and Homeless Service have commissioned Turning Point Scotland to deliver the support element of the project with the Wheatley Group Ltd. committing to providing up to 20 homes via Dumfries & Galloway Housing Partnership.
This is a multi-agency project with mental health, drug and alcohol support being provided by the H&SCP and NHS Dumfries & Galloway. Other partners involved include the Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland, Justice and Adult Social Work and the Alcohol and Drug Partnership.
The criteria for the project are that the service user:
- Demonstrates entrenched homelessness over a significant period of time
- Is over the age of 26
- Has a current or historical dependency on alcohol or drugs which may also be linked to mental health issues
- A history of cyclical offending behaviour
Currently referrals into the project are via the Housing Options and Homeless Service but referral routes from other services and agencies will be introduced as the project develops. Further information on Housing First in Scotland can be found here.
As well as the Housing First work, The Housing Options and Homeless Service are also launching a new Domestic Abuse and Coercive Control Homelessness Protocol. This protocol and pathway has been developed in conjunction with key partnership agencies including Dumfries & Galloway Public Protection Partnership, Police Scotland, Dumfries & Galloway Violence Against Women and Girls Group, Women’s Aid Services, local registered social landlords, Social Work Services and NHS Dumfries & Galloway.
The annual homeless statistics for Dumfries & Galloway show approximately 16% of applications give the main reason for their application s as a violent of abusive relationship within the household.
This protocol recognises that partner organisations and services have common objectives in ensuring that:
- Anyone experiencing or who has experiencing domestic abuse or coercive control is able to access a range of housing and advice services.
- Survivors receive consistent and comprehensive advice about these services from partner service and frontline staff
- Survivors are able to make informed choices to enable them to secure a safe and sustainable housing solution such as:
- Support to remain in the current home (if safe and appropriate)
- Safe houses and other supported accommodation
- Rehousing by existing landlord
- Assistance to make a homeless application and access housing options advice
- Access to private and social rented housing sectors
- Face to face support co-ordinated by the most appropriate agency for that individual
The introduction of this protocol and pathway will ensure survivors of domestic abuse who are homeless or threatened with homelessness will receive consistent advice, have access to a range of options and ensure safeguarding and the service user needs are key to service delivery.