The London Assembly Housing Committee has today (11th June) published two letters to government outlining a list of recommendations on how to expand Housing First in London.
Pitched as a solution the rising homelessness crisis in the capital, Housing First is a programme that provides a person sleeping rough with immediate and permenant housing without preconditions.
Once housed, tenants are said to be given as access to a GP, and support relating to drugs and alcohol, education and training.
In a letter to the Mayor, Sian Berry AM, former chair of the Housing Committee, urged the need for longer term funding for the scheme, as well as the establishment of a pan-London Housing First lettings agency to source accommodation for “chronically homeless people”.
Berry references findings from various sessions with representatives across the capital who currently deliver Housing First programmes in London, including The Single Homeless Project and SPEAR.
As outlined, a government grant of £37,000 was awarded to SPEAR over two years to fund a worker with a small caseload who worked with chronically homeless people with complex needs.
CEO Stuart Nevill told the Committee in a session that this project was a success, although it was the only Housing First scheme to receive a grant from government.
As highlighted, the current funding for commissioning homelessness services is relatively short-term, with the government’s Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund only allotting two-year grants.
This is said to potentially deter the schemes service providers from applying for these grants, as they do not guarantee the security of long term funding.
In a letter to the Mayor, Berry also urges the need of the establishment of a pan-London lettings agency, similar to that of Capital Letters, to source accommodation for those homeless.
She added that although operating across London, the agency should ensure that service users are housed locally to “retain their local connections”.
As referenced, the Committee is said to have heard evidence to confirm the various success of Housing First and its sustainment of tenancies for some of the most entrenched rough sleepers.
In a separate letter addressed to Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP, the scaling up of Housing First schemes is listed as a recommendation, with the need to fund the schemes now rather than waiting to receive the evaluations of current pilots.
In his Rough Sleeping Plan of Action released last year, the Mayor of London stated that £316m of funding from the government is needed over the next five years to fund several initiatives to tackle rough sleeping in the capital.
As recommended, Berry continues to urge that part of this funding should be allotted to the establishment of a pan-London service, as well as the continued funding of Housing First pilots across London.
Member of the London Assembly Housing Committee Sian Berry AM said: “Rough sleeping in a prosperous city like London should not exist, and it is shocking that it does.
“Schemes like Housing First could go a long way to help those who find themselves homeless.
“The visibility of homeless people in London has become progressively worse, and it’s time we did something serious to address it.”
She added: “The Mayor and the government should work together to fund Housing First, so it can become a London-wide programme.
“It is possible to change the lives of vulnerable rough sleepers, one home at a time, if there is the political will and the funding to do it.”