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Housing First* marks one-year anniversary with ambition for ‘rapid scaling up’

A year after Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder was officially launched discussions are taking place between senior figures in housing, homelessness and government to significantly scale-up the programme and prevent anyone returning to the streets who has been accommodated in hotels and short-term lets under current emergency measures.

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is made harder by other disadvantages and experiences such as trauma or addiction.

At present, most people who were rough sleeping in Scotland’s town, cities and rural locations have been accommodated in hotels and other facilities left empty by the pandemic, around 200 people. This figure includes those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) whose immigration status prevents them receiving mainstream support and benefits. Exploring options for scaling up Housing First is now a key focus for senior figures in the housing and homelessness sectors, and Scottish Government, as the country starts to think about what comes after this stage of the pandemic.

Homeless Network Scotland, which manages the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder, publishes its first annual check-up report today (Thursday 7 May) detailing the impact of the approach in the five Pathfinder areas of Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. It reveals 250-plus tenancies created so far, with more than 90% of people supported to stay in their home.

Sir Andrew Cubie, Chair of the Housing First Scotland Advisory Group, said:

“I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to the success of the programme in its first full year. Work that continues during these exceptional circumstances, moving us closer to a solution that addresses the most acute forms of homelessness.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“I am delighted the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder has now helped over 250 people into their own homes, providing everyone with the right support for their needs.  Partners involved in Housing First are putting the lived experiences of people at the heart of what they are doing and providing evidenced based responses to do what is right for every person. That is why there has been an amazing 92% tenancy sustainment rate. I’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who has been involved in the Pathfinder on this the first anniversary of its inception.


“In the current public health emergency, it is vital that we all build on the progress made as we seek to meet our commitment to end rough sleeping for good. I look forward to working closely with all involved in the Pathfinder, to ensure Housing First is available to all those who will benefit from it.”

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Y-Foundation, Finland, said:

“The current Coronavirus has made it crystal clear that the only sustainable solution to homelessness is permanent housing with Housing First. Whatever obstacles and challenges we may come across we have to continue to work together to end homelessness without any hesitation. In this work we need beacons of hope like the Pathfinder. The work done in Scotland to upscale Housing First is an inspirational example for many countries.”

Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said:

“Covid-19 has brought into focus a little of what it must feel like when shortages, uncertainty and isolation equals ‘normal’ life, which is the case for thousands of people in Scotland. Unfairness is what Housing First seeks to redress because what sits behind it is a quick, personalised and compassionate response – and with more than 250 tenancies created so far, it is working. This is the right time to rapidly scale up Housing First in Scotland and make sure there is no return to homelessness.

“Because of our experience over the past twelve months, captured in the Check Up report published today, our planning for 2020 and beyond will reflect everything we have learned. We have always known that homelessness is unnecessary, now as a society we have demonstrated it by accommodating everyone who wanted to be inside. We can’t allow ourselves to go back.”

Social Bite kick started the Pathfinder with funds raised by people across Scotland who braved the elements and slept out in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens in 2017 at The Big Sleepout to help end homelessness.

Jane Bruce, Chief Executive of Social Bite, said:

“Social Bite is so proud of all the work achieved over the first full year of the Pathfinder. Each and every person housed now has the safety and security of their own home and, with committed support alongside them, they are in a vastly improved position to be able to build a good life. It’s been amazing to see our skilled partners come together across the pathfinder areas and Scotland to make this project happen. The progress we’ve seen has required leadership, energy and commitment from so many different individuals and organisations and we are immensely proud to be part of this team working to change the system in Scotland for the better.”

Discussions between leaders in the third sector, housing, national and local government and people with lived experience of homelessness are taking place to plan for the end of restrictions.

Maggie Brunjes added: “The mood is resolute. We have unprecedented contact with and access to individuals who may have been rough sleeping, sofa-surfing or in-and-out of temporary flats. All those involved in discussions are determined to build on the progress that has been made since emergency measures were introduced, and to do everything in our power to prevent a return to homelessness for anyone.”

*Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme

100th home handed over to Housing First Scotland Pathfinder by Wheatley Group

Wheatley Group, Scotland’s leading housing, property management and care organisation, has handed over its 100th home to the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme.

Wheatley pledged up to 200 homes to the partnership in December 2018, following a Sleep in the Park fundraiser organised by Social Bite. Wheatley also give all new Housing First tenants a starter pack that can include food, bedding and recycled furniture. One of the people who has been housed through Housing First is William, who is now a GHA tenant in Glasgow.

William said: “Since moving in here I have come on leaps and bounds. It feels a lot better to have a home. My housing officer, Tiffany, is there for me. I was given the things I needed when I moved in. Having my own front door is a good feeling. I feel safe.”

The Housing First Pathfinder programme in Scotland, which is running in Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, is supported by the Scottish Government, Social Bite and Merchants House Glasgow, with funding co-ordinated by Corra Foundation.

Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn said: “Wheatley were the first organisation to pledge properties when we began this Housing First programme, so I’m delighted to see their progress. I’m amazed and humbled to see the difference it has made to people like William. Thank you to all the partners who are working together on our eventual goal of eradicating homelessness in Scotland”.

Picture L to R – Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite) William (Housing First tenant), Olga Clayton (Wheatley Group)

International reaction as Housing First in Scotland passes milestone


A monitoring report released today (Tuesday 19 November) shows that Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder has created more than 150 tenancies. Each represents an opportunity for someone to end their homelessness and receive support and encouragement to build and live their lives.

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is compounded by other disadvantages and experiences. The Housing First Scotland Pathfinder is a three-year programme launched in April 2019 with the target of creating 830 tenancies. It is the largest of its kind in the UK and the latest 150-tenancy milestone has been praised by US psychologist, Dr Sam Tsemberis, who pioneered the approach in New York during the early 1990s.

Dr Sam Tsemberis
CEO of Pathways to Housing, said:

“What’s happening in Scotland should inspire everyone involved in Housing First projects across Europe. More than 150 people have received a home of their own and that speaks to the commitment of the Housing First Scotland initiative, now well on their way to establish Housing First as the best response for the most vulnerable.  When I visited in May to participate in the Housing First conference in Edinburgh, I was very impressed by the determination of those I met to make sure this programme succeeds go Scotland!”

The Pathfinder launched officially on 1 April 2019 supported by housing providers across the country with Wheatley Group leading, and with funding from the Scottish Government, Social Bite and Merchants House Glasgow.

A source of inspiration for many, Finland is the only European country where homelessness is falling. Juha Kaakinen has been heavily involved in Finland’s national Housing First programme, and says:

“The Housing First model in Finland is based on understanding homelessness extensively and in detail. We learned that it should not only apply to sleeping rough but also sofa-surfing and hidden forms of homelessness. Nor can it be stopped by housing departments or charities alone – all parts of the system must be on board. Scotland has also recognised this, which is one reason why you are so far ahead so quickly. Stay focused on the goal and I know your programme will continue to report increasing participation and better outcomes for people with the most difficult experiences.”

Samara Jones
co-ordinates the Housing First Europe Hub. She said:

“What’s happening in Scotland is a beacon of good practice that other European nations are watching with interest. The cross-party political support, stable funding and commitment from all those involved is a benchmark in collaborative working and partnership. Across Europe there are Housing First and rapid rehousing programmes placing people in their own home and ending their homelessness. There is still so much to learn, mistakes to make and solutions to find, but Housing First is the right response, in particular for people with the most complex experience of homelessness.”

Kevin Stewart
Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, said:

“Compelling international evidence on the effectiveness of Housing First informed the Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendation. Now, almost nine months into the Pathfinder programme, it is very welcome to note the encouragement from Housing First leaders and pace-setters in other parts of the world. The Government has made ending homelessness a priority and is determined that Housing First will be available for those with the hardest life experiences, within a broader rapid rehousing framework.”

Jane Bruce
Chief Executive of Social Bite Scotland, said:

“We are so pleased to see significant numbers of people both in their own homes and also sustaining their tenancies. The programme is doing what we always hoped it would – genuinely breaking the cycle of homelessness by giving people the platform of a stable home alongside intensive support so they can start to build a life from a place of safety and security. No one said it was going to be easy, but progress so far shows that our determination to provide the right type of support to people in their own home is the right approach.

“We are determined to reach our goal of housing 830 people and can use the rich learning gained over the past six months to feed into the planning for the rest of the programme to ensure we hit that goal.”

The unknown element at the start of the programme was how quickly people could be housed as the partners work collectively to shift the system from one way of doing things to another. Based on experience and learning over the past six months forecasting for 2020 will better reflect what has been learned about pace, with greater emphasis placed on outcomes and the emphasis on incremental targets will be relaxed.


Annual Conference 2019 Report

This year’s conference – the biggest yet with 350 people joining – marked a turning point for Housing First in Scotland, with those attending spanning health, housing and the wider public sector as well as third sector colleagues.

Find out more and read the conference report here.

Housing First Scotland Connect Event

Connect Event 3

Thursday 19 September 2019

Dundee Discovery

Read  Housing First Connect Issue 3 (PDF)

Community of Practice

Coming soon, an exciting space to share learning and knowledge from across the Pathfinder areas and beyond.

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Homeless Network Scotland is a charity registered in Scotland (SC0 03453) and company limited by guarantee (SC112361).

Registered Office: Adelphi Centre, 12 Commercial Road, Glasgow G5 0PQ. CEO: Margaret-Ann Brünjes