Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, has urged the Government to ‘get behind Housing First’ and roll it out across the country.
Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ending Homelessness as part of their inquiry into Housing First, the Mayor revealed nearly 300 rough sleepers had been helped off the streets and into their own accommodation thanks to the West Midlands scheme, and believes that success can be replicated across the country.
Opening the meeting, the Mayor told the APPG how the West Midlands pilot, which is led by local authorities, had helped some of the most entrenched individuals with a long history of rough sleeping in the region off the streets – and these vulnerable individuals had placed their trust in the scheme and stuck with it.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ending Homelessness via video
As well as providing a home for rough sleepers to call their own, Housing First provides the wrap-around support individuals need to re-build their lives and stay in their accommodation. In the West Midlands residents are also given a small budget to make their new homes their own thanks to pilot funding and money donated through the Change into Action scheme.
The regional pilot sees huge collaboration across the West Midlands with the DWP, housing providers, health providers, and wider commissioned services all working together to ensure the most vulnerable in society are helped and supported.
It is estimated homelessness costs the UK between £20,000 - £25,000 a year per person, whereas the cost of putting a person through the Housing First scheme is thought to be around £14,000 a year.
But despite this the Government has not yet committed to the scheme permanently, instead focusing on three trials in the West Midlands, Liverpool, and Manchester.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said: “The success of the Housing First scheme in the West Midlands is clear for all to see, and has contributed to us reducing the number of rough sleepers across the region – particularly in Birmingham where we faced a significant challenge.
“With this success in mind, and a huge challenge around homelessness emerging because of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the time for the Government to commit to this scheme long-term, rolling it out across the country and integrating it as part of the UK’s housing strategy.”
Despite the success of the scheme in the West Midlands, there have been some substantial barriers that are stopping the scheme locally from reaching its full potential.
The Mayor told the APPG, co-chaired by Bob Blackman MP and Neil Coyle MP, that the region’s pilot has faced issues with housing supply including availability, affordability, and suitability. The Mayor suggested the best way to tackle this would be for Housing First to be part of local and national housing strategies, meaning the right type and right volume of accommodation would be available for those in need.
The biggest issue however, the Mayor said, is a lack of certainty about future funding to ensure continuity of support. The West Midlands pilot was scheduled for three years, but the Mayor told the APPG that it is becoming clear that people typically require more than three years support, and therefore the scheme needs a long-term commitment from Government to provide certainty to residents and their support workers, and to continue to make a difference to people’s lives.
The Mayor finished by saying: “This is working, it is a breakthrough, and as a country we need to get behind it and roll it out.”