Padlock on rusty door

How do I Feel About Housing First?

Through our Wisdoms series, people have consistently told us that feeling out of control and not having choices in their life are two of the main reasons the system keeps them trapped and unable to transition through their toughest of times.

Having a place to call home, a safe place, a place where you can be who you are, without arbitrary rules and conditions is central to moving away from homelessness and away from services imposing themselves in people’s lives. This may take the form of a Housing First scheme, it may take another form. A range of options is important, but fundamentally we must listen and respond to the person in front of us, we must be person led.

When we treat people fairly, human to human, focusing on relationship building, trust, brokering opportunities in the real world, instead of focusing on fixing problems and achieving outcomes – we see great change in people’s lives. Being led by people, focusing on what they can do, building on strengths. This is the PTS.

I’ve seen the term Housing First taken, manipulated, forced into existing systems and turned into something it was never intended to be. If we continue to look at the system as something that needs to be improved rather than fundamentally changed, we will be in the same situation in ten years’ time and certainly will not have ended rough sleeping by 2024 – thousands of people, locked in systems that they cannot get out of, whether it be mental health, homelessness, criminal justice or any other deficit label we care to dream up.

We need to think bigger than the latest initiatives and approaches. Offering somebody a safe place to live, their own front door, their own secure tenancy shouldn’t be radical, shouldn’t be a novelty only reserved for those where we have ‘tried everything else’. Absolutely let’s implement Housing First across the land, let’s make genuinely affordable housing available to those that want it and need it. And let’s make sure people have the support they are asking for, not the support we think they need, available when they want it, available how they want it.

When this system gives up on the managing and fixing that we have tried and tried again, when it gives up on warehousing people in ‘schemes’ because we’ve decided they cannot cope and replaces it with a re-distribution of power, listening to people, building relationships, it is then that we will end rough sleeping, not before.


Robert White – Director of Change, Mayday Trust