Rock Trust launch first ever ‘Housing First for Youth’ project in the UK

This autumn we are proud to be launching the first ever Housing First for Youth project in the UK. This 2 year pilot project is being delivered in partnership with Almond Housing Association and will be delivered in West Lothian for young people leaving care.

Through piloting this project we aim to build up further evidence of the success of the Housing First model in a youth context, with a particular focus on the benefits to looked after young people.

Recent government statistics show the West Lothian local authority to have the largest increase in use of temporary accommodation in Scotland (Scottish Government: Homelessness in Scotland: update to September 2016).  Formal statistics also suggest that at least 21% of care leavers become homeless within five years of leaving care (Scottish Government, 2016), while practitioners suggest this could be as high as 30 – 50% due to issues with self-declaration.

Young people leaving care are being failed by the current temporary supported accommodation models. Traditional ‘staircase’ routes to permanent accommodation rely on an individual being able to prove their readiness at each stage in order to move to the next, something which is not possible for young people requiring high levels of support. Many young people leaving care will have already experienced significant trauma, instability, multiple moves and a lack of security throughout their early life. Under the current supported housing model, too many young people are unable to do what is required of them to be allowed permanent housing.

Housing First works on the belief that housing is a basic human right. The Housing First for Youth model extends this right to young people, and acknowledges that young people have specific needs related to their age.

Through our new project in West Lothian, the young people we work with will be offered accommodation on an immediate, permanent and unconditional basis. Five fully furnished tenancies will be provided by Almond Housing Association, and our team in West Lothian will provide additional holistic support to each young person, focused around their individual needs, including education, employment, health and wellbeing. We will take a ‘whatever it takes’ philosophy in order to support the young people to maintain their tenancies.

While there is a significant bank of evidence to support the use of Housing First in targeting chronic homelessness, its effectiveness in work with young people, and specifically care leavers, is relatively unproven.  However, after examining national statistics, international case studies, psychologically informed research and local anecdotal evidence, we believe there is sufficient reason to test the concept and to build up evidence of its success.

Central to all of the work undertaken by Rock Trust is the belief that young people need relevant services which meet their individual needs. As the only charity in Scotland dedicated specifically to the eradication of youth homelessness, we pride ourselves on piloting and sharing youth-specific approaches. Over time we anticipate being able to build the evidence needed to expand this service to more young people and influence the wider sector’s use of the model.

It is hoped that the first young person will be able to move into their new home at the end of September. Check back for further updates on how this innovative new project progresses!