A Scandinavian scheme, ‘Housing First’, is already being piloted in parts of Scotland. What is distinctive about this scheme is that it prioritises getting people off the streets first and into a stable home environment before tackling the problems such as drug addiction which may have been the initial cause of their homelessness. See this, on a Finnish scheme, reported in the Guardian in 2016:
‘The housing first model is quite simple: when people are homeless, you give them housing first – a stable home, rather than progressing them through several levels of temporary and transitional accommodation. The idea stems from the belief that people who are homeless need a home, and other issues that may cause them to be at risk of homelessness can be addressed once they are in stable housing. Homeless people aren’t told they must conquer their addictions or secure a job before being given a home: instead it is accepted that having a home can make solving health and social problems much easier.’
Homelessness in Finland is in steep decline, the scheme is considered a great success there and has been copied in Sweden. Knowing what we know about the UK government, I’m sure none will be surprised that the only reason given for not adopting such a scheme in a UK Parliament report was this:
‘We are cautious about investing further in housing first in England because of the severity of England’s homelessness challenge and the scarcity of funding and of social housing.’
The building of affordable housing is proceeding at twice the rate of the UK, in Scotland, so perhaps that may be less of a barrier here.
More important, the Scottish government clearly holds to more communitarian or humanitarian values and the First Minister has now said she would like to see the scheme expanded. Reported in the Sunday Post, she said:
‘The housing first model is already being used in certain parts of Scotland with quite significant success, and it is an approach that I am very interested to see extended by us and local authorities. I agree with the underpinning principles of the housing first model, because the approach is about responding very quickly to initial need but also looking at how a package of support can be put around somebody who is homeless and needs accommodation.’
I think I can add this to the list of reasons why Scotland is different enough to be running the show itself:
58 000 baby boxes to help increase life chances and now Scotland will be the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products to ‘end period poverty’. This is the kind of country I want to live in.