Hightown Housing Association’s work to support homeless people in St Albans not only helps vulnerable people get their lives back on track, it saves the health service, police and local authority nearly £600,000 a year, according to new independent report by RSM Consulting.
The ‘Social Impact Report’ commissioned by the charitable organisation showed its work with the homeless is saving other agencies in St Albans almost £7,500 per person per year, split across healthcare (£300,000), policing (£80,000) and the local authority (£220,000).
The report highlights that homeless people are 10 times less likely to be in employment than the general public, almost four times as likely to be admitted to hospital during a year and stayed in hospital for an average of almost 13 days following an admission.
Individuals supported by Hightown need fewer hospital stays and are less demanding on police time, as well as claiming fewer benefits and being more likely to move into long-term accommodation.
Hightown runs three projects for homeless people in the St Albans area – Open Door, Kent House and Martin House. Between them they provide accommodation for up to 52 people, with each being offered tailored support and advice to give them the necessary social and life skills to move into independent living or employment.
Among the people Hightown has supported are 46-year-old Tony*, who came to Martin House in June 2014. After his partner tragically died in 2012, he found himself facing the prospect of homelessness, while his mental health declined and he began drinking more as well as taking drugs.
Following an arrest, he was referred to Martin House, where a support team helped him with issues around his mental health, drug and alcohol problems. They also kept him motivated as he worked towards increasing his independence and establishing himself in the community.
Tony, who is currently being treated for cancer, but now lives independently, said: “From the advice and support I had from Martin House, I was better able to cope and get the medical support and treatment I needed.
“I now feel confident when dealing with people either on the phone or in person, and I know what I need to do when I need help or advice.”
The work Hightown does to support people like Tony has been recognised by Councillor Julian Daly, Leader of St Albans City and District Council and Portfolio Holder for Resources, who said: “Hightown do a tremendous amount of good work to support the district's homeless. They help to rebuild peoples' lives and put them on a path towards a more settled and fulfilling existence.
"One of the hidden benefits of their work is its financial value to other agencies which would otherwise be faced with greater demands on their resources. This report shows that Hightown's services result in substantial 'added value' and yields savings for the NHS, the police and local government.”
Joan Bailey, Chair of the Open Door Charity, which set up the Open Door night shelter in 1993 and has since then given it huge support through funding and volunteering, said “We welcome this report. It shows that services like those provided by Hightown and the local homelessness charities add significant value, and, while helping individuals to change their lives, also lead to important savings to the public purse.”
Dr Daniel Carlton-Conway, Chair of St Albans and Harpenden Locality at Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group and a GP in St Albans, agreed: "It is really heartening to hear about the positive impact Hightown is making by supporting homeless people in St Albans. We are also pleased to hear how their valued work is translating into important outcomes for these individuals."
St Albans Neighbourhood Police Inspector Adam Such added: "Homelessness can have an impact on crime and anti-social behaviour, and we therefore, support other agencies, including St Albans District Council and housing associations, to help reduce it.”
Hightown Chief Executive David Bogle said: “We’ve always been proud to make a real difference to the lives of homeless people in St Albans. This independent report also confirms our work saves the taxpayer money and is important in easing pressure on local public services.”