Hightown Housing Association has partnered with St Albans District Council and Dacorum Borough Council to launch a major new homelessness project to coincide with World Homeless Day (10 October 2019).

The pilot ‘Housing First’ project – which is based on a homelessness intervention model widely adopted in the US and Europe – is funded by a £100,000 government grant.

It will house St Albans and Dacorum districts’ most vulnerable rough sleepers in affordable council and Hightown Housing Association properties, and at the same time provide them with wraparound, intensive support to help them rebuild their lives. 

The scheme sees the appointment of two Housing First co-ordinators based at the Open Door homelessness hostel in St Albans, who will work pro-actively with each person to help them identify their goals, access services to improve their health and wellbeing and integrate into the local community.

Hightown Housing Association contracts manager, Daniel R. Wiseman, who is leading the project, says:

“The underlying principle of Housing First is that people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed in permanent, self-contained housing.

“The support provided via the Housing First co-ordinators is intended to help break down the barriers and trust issues that many long-term rough sleepers face, so that people can develop the skills to maintain a tenancy and make positive changes to their lives.”

Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Protection and Inclusion at St Albans District Council, says:

“Rough sleepers often have difficult backgrounds, addiction problems and complex needs and this scheme recognises that they need to be supported rather than shunned or punished.

“It offers rough sleepers intensive help to recover from any problems they have, gain basic life skills and take on the responsibility of a housing tenancy.

“We will work closely with Hightown, which is leading the project, and Dacorum Borough Council on this initiative in the months ahead to make sure it is a success.

“It is fitting that it is being launched on World Homeless Day which is all about highlighting these issues and taking action to make a difference to the local community.”

Dacorum Borough Council’s Group Manager for Strategic Housing, Natasha Beresford, adds:

“Unlike other homelessness intervention models, Housing First places no pre-conditions on people, only a willingness to maintain their tenancy. 

“The approach has proved to be very successful in other parts of the UK in helping people break the cycle of instability that can keep them on the streets.  So far we have identified a number of local people who are eligible for the scheme and we’re excited about the prospect of recreating this success.”

The Open Door Homelessness Service is also marking this year's World Homeless Day with the launch of a new film about the practical ways it helps homeless people to move on to a more positive future.  In addition to a bed for the night, the service offers a lunchtime drop-in, laundry facilities, support with CV writing and job applications, guidance with housing enquiries, mental health counselling and access to a community nurse.  

Hightown Housing Association’s Carla Watson, Open Door scheme manager, says:

“When you are homeless it can be extremely challenging to access the things everyone else takes for granted, such as going to the doctor, sending an email or using the internet, and as a result you can quickly feel that you’re losing control of your life. 

“The support available at Open Door not only helps homeless people with their immediate needs in terms of a bed for the night and a hot meal, but we’re also able to give assistance in many other practical ways through our team of dedicated staff, including our outreach workers who engage with rough sleepers on the streets.  We’ve seen many success stories of people who, with our help, have been able to move on to a more secure future.”