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Wales achieves 90% tenancy sustainment through Housing First

The first ever statistics on Housing First in Wales have demonstrated the scale and impact of the model on reducing homelessness across 15 local authorities.

Data collected by Cymorth Cymru from 15 Housing First projects between February 2018 and September 2021 shows that 521 people have been supported by Housing First projects in Wales, 245 people have started Housing First tenancies and 90% are sustaining their tenancy.

Housing First is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that focuses on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into an independent and settled home, rather than requiring people to have lengthy stays in temporary accommodation and prove they are ‘housing ready’. Intensive, multi-agency support is provided with no pre-conditions or time-limits.

The model has traditionally been targeted at people who are sleeping rough or are very marginally housed, and who have chronic and complex support needs. It was developed in New York in the 1990s, primarily by community psychologist Sam Tsemberis, and has since been widely adopted across the USA and Europe. International evidence suggests that Housing First tends to achieve a tenancy sustainment rate of 80-90%.

In 2018 the Welsh Government identified Housing First as a key intervention to reduce rough sleeping and provided funding to establish a number of projects in Wales. Last year’s Ending Homelessness Action Plan committed to expanding the model across all local authorities in Wales and stressed the importance of maintaining fidelity to the model and ensuring that Housing First projects are delivered in line with the Housing First Wales principles.

In light of this long-term commitment to Housing First, Cymorth Cymru, which co-ordinates the Housing First Wales Network, has started to collect data on its scale and impact.

Key statistics:

  • 15 Housing First projects are being delivered across 15 local authorities
  • 521 people have been supported by Housing First projects in Wales between 1 February 2018 – 30 September 2021. This includes people engaging with Housing First through assertive outreach and pre-tenancy support, as well as people being supported in a Housing First tenancy.
  • 245 people started Housing First tenancies between 1 Feb 2018 – 30 Sep 2021
  • 221 people were sustaining their tenancy as of 30 September 2021 – a tenancy sustainment rate of 90%

Minister for climate change Julie James said: ‘Everyone deserves access to a good quality, affordable and settled home so I’m delighted to see the success that Housing First, which is aimed at people with the most complex needs, is having as part of our move to a rapid-rehousing approach.

‘The Welsh Government has been clear that there will be no going back to the pre-pandemic approach to homelessness. Housing First is a key component of our ambition to ensure homelessness becomes rare, brief and unrepeated in Wales.

‘My thanks to the many people who have undoubtedly worked very hard to adopt the model. The 90% tenancy sustainment rate is even better than we had hoped when we set out on our Housing First journey in Wales.’

Cymorth director Katie Dalton said: ‘Housing First is an internationally proven model but it is fantastic to see it working so effectively here in Wales. Huge credit must be given to the support providers, local authorities, landlords and public services who have embraced this model and work incredibly hard to deliver Housing First in line with the principles.

‘It is clear that Housing First has a significant impact on homelessness and will have numerous benefits to other public services. With lots of people in temporary accommodation who need this type of support, we hope these statistics encourage all stakeholders to work together and support the expansion of Housing First across Wales.’

Cymorth Housing First manager Alex Osmond said: ‘Having worked with these projects for the past few years I know how hard the staff work to provide high quality support and deliver the model in line with the principles. I’m really pleased to see data that illustrates the impact of their efforts and provides a clear message to future projects that delivering Housing First in line with the principles is fundamental to its success.’

For more on Housing First in Wales and its lessons for rapid rehousing, read Alex Osmond’s article in the new issue of WHQ (published Thursday July 21).

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