In 2017 we launched 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 is being 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 young people leaving care.
Recent Scottish Government statistics 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 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 are offered accommodation on an immediate, permanent and unconditional basis. Five fully furnished tenancies have been provided by Almond Housing Association for young people, and our team in West Lothian are providing 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 and prevent them from ever becoming homeless.
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.