At our Pulse Meeting on 21 August participants explored the principles and approach of the Housing First model in detail, following the conversations held during Homelessness Week 2019.
The Housing First approach underpins a large part of our Strategy to End Homelessness in WA and was also the focus of several Homelessness Week events.
The Pulse Meeting began by revisiting Housing First, followed by facilitated group conversations.
During the first part Sam Knight, the Executive Manager for Housing and Community Services at Ruah Community Services, outlined the Housing First approach which shapes Ruah’s 50 Lives 50 Homes project.
50 Lives 50 Homes currently operating in Perth, permanently houses and supports people who are identified as being the most vulnerable and at highest risk based on their needs and the length of time they have been homeless.
Sam drew on terminology that keynote speaker Bob Jordan the National Director of Housing First in Ireland used when he spoke about Housing First. Mr Jordan referred to “giving someone a set of keys”.
The Housing First approach bypasses the many tests and barriers that the existing Homelessness approach imposes. Housing First works on the premise that once an individual gets a stable house, they are more likely to address other issues. Each individual is assisted in sustaining their housing as they work towards recovery and reintegration within the community at their own pace.
The approach has shown to be consistently successful in countries around the world.
John Berger, Chairperson of the WA Alliance to End Homelessness spoke about how our Strategy to End Homelessness is guided by the approach of the Housing First model because of its proven success.
“In terms of the evidence, it’s clear that the success rate of Housing First in keeping people in sustained tenancies is over 80 per cent whereas the traditional system of transitional accommodation has only about a 40 per cent success rate. This evidence is reflected in international studies comparing the two models” said Mr Berger.
“We are unapologetic about moving towards this. Finland got rid of all its transitional accommodation; they only have a Housing First approach and some limited emergency accommodation. It is a huge challenge for us as we are in a very different position to today compared to Finland.”
Moving into the second part of the session John Berger outlined how critical it was to examine and understand the five core principles of Housing First.
“If you water down any of those principles then you are not Housing First and you will not achieve the success rate,” he said. “Critical for us is ensuring that those principles become enshrined in the way that we do this work. Part of today is to look at those principles and reflect on where are we achieving this already, where are we not and what is the work we need to do to shift towards a Housing First approach.”
Participants were then shown an animated overview of the Housing First principles.
After the video was shown a breakout session over five tables was held. Each table focused on one of the five principles of Housing First.The resulting information is captured and guides the way forward to implement the Housing First approach in Western Australia.
Like to know about Housing First? The Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness have collated Housing First resources from around the world, as well as developing some resources specific to our Western Australian context. Click here.