Housing First Done Right

Kristian Claxton


Many of you will have heard of Housing First. It’s been in the news a lot recently as the potential answer on how to end rough sleeping.

For those of you who haven’t, Housing First is in many ways a simple concept - housing is a human right, and therefore homeless people who are rough sleeping should be given a permanent home rather than having to prove they should be allowed one (which is how the current hostel system works).

The housing should be single occupancy and mixed in with the community so that the people using Housing First are a part of general society. The person is then provided with the option of intensive support to work on issues such as mental ill health, substance misuse and other issues that are prominent in homelessness. However, if they refuse this support it does not affect their housing, thus giving people choice and control in their lives. This, therefore, makes housing and treatment separate, meaning people will always have a roof over their head and a solid base where they have the option of working on other issues.

The model has had incredible success worldwide. In Canada, 80% of rough sleepers who got to access Housing First were still in their new home after 13 months, and in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, there has been an even better success with 97% and 94% of rough sleepers still in their tenancies after 12 months.

Furthermore, evidence in some Housing First projects has shown a reduction in drug use and improvement in mental health. Finland has made Housing First the key part of its strategy to end rough sleeping. The success has been so dramatic that Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness is decreasing. To put it in perspective, between 2009-2016 Finland’s homeless population dropped by 18% whereas in the same time in the UK under the Conservatives (and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition) Government homelessness increased by a staggering 150%.

Housing First works. Therefore it would seem to make sense for it to be implemented in England. The Conservatives have discussed Housing First and Sajid Javid went to Finland when he was the minister in charge of housing and convinced his party to put £28m into three Housing First Pilot schemes.

However, all may not be what it seems, when it comes to Housing First and its use in England. Housing First works because it has a core set of principles. If you do not follow these principles you are taking away what makes the model successful.

What is happening in England in some areas is that councils are stating that they are running Housing First projects, while in reality they differ massively from what Housing First is meant to be.

For example, instead of providing permanent housing they will provide it for 2 years or they will have people signed up to licence agreements where it is easy to evict people. Furthermore, some councils are going to be putting people into private rented accommodation that is shared, where little support is offered. This is in no way Housing First yet is being branded as though it is.

Lastly, some local authorities are effectively creating mini shanty towns where “Housing First” is provided in the outskirts of a city in shipping containers or other non-regular housing. These projects often get a lot of news coverage; however as one of the biggest economies in the world we can do better than putting homeless people in shipping containers away from the rest of society. The idea behind Housing First is to provide permanent secure accommodation where homeless people are integrated into the community and provided with support, not shoved away, grouped together and forgotten about.

Why then if Housing First works is it not being properly implemented? One reason is substandard Housing First projects, which differ dramatically from the original model, may be being set up as a way of cutting costs. In 2017/2018 the Government was spending £1 billion less on single homelessness services compared to ten years ago, and during this time rough sleeping has increased by at least 150%.

It is therefore easy to set “Housing First” up in an area while not following the model of Housing First and run the service on the cheap, whilst at the same time continuing to make devastating cuts to other homelessness services. I know of one local authority where this has happened, with mental health and addiction support teams as well as other housing providers having their budget cut or having funding removed completely, and a misunderstood version of Housing First being implemented to cover up for this.

This will only lead to the most vulnerable in our society being let down and failed once again.

Furthermore, for Housing First to be implemented properly it needs to be integrated into a wider strategy to tackle rough sleeping. This means investing in social housing so there are enough homes for Housing First, investing in more support staff and investing in services that help prevent rough sleeping.

Unfortunately, the current Government is not willing to invest in these type of services and are merely going to pay lip service to the idea of Housing First and tackling rough sleeping.

This will not only diminish the potential success of Housing First but will continue to leave rough sleepers vulnerable and allow the Government to get away with defunding other homeless services. As Homeless Link wrote in 2017, we have seen the term Housing First misused, and at worst be used to justify cuts. Unfortunately, two years on this is the still the case.

What can the Labour Party do?

I would like to see Labour adopt a 3-point strategy to end rough sleeping.

Point 1 is to start to reverse the devastating cuts already made to homelessness services. Point 2 is to start funding mental health/addiction support services, and put more money into Local Government. Point 3 is to follow the example of Finland and make Housing First a key part of a national strategy on ending rough sleeping.

This would require a commitment to building social housing and creating jobs to provide the support on the ground that Housing First needs. Finland did exactly this by spending £250 million on new homes and creating 300 support staff jobs and as mentioned previously had incredible success. This would allow Housing First to flourish and would stop Housing First being done on the cheap as a way of cutting costs. This is currently happening in many areas due to cuts made by the current Government.

I believe if all three of these points are met, England could have a homelessness strategy that would dramatically see a reduction in the number of people rough sleeping.

Nearly all of these points fit in with current Labour policy, so all we need to do is make it clear that we support Housing First with proper investment, unlike the current Government.

This would not only help the people who are suffering on the street, but this strategy has been proved to save money long term as well, with research in Canada, USA and Finland supporting this.

To conclude, it is very frustrating that Housing First is currently not being used to its full potential and instead is being used as a way of cutting costs.

However, the good news is with investment to current services, an end to austerity and Housing First as a key part of a national strategy, we know that we can massively reduce the number of people on our streets.

The answer is out there. We just need a Government that is willing to make it happen, and that Government is a Labour Government.




As Labour Party members, and supporters, we welcome the announcement by the Labour leadership that it will repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act once the Labour party is in government, but more needs to be done to end criminalisation of homelessness. The Vagrancy Act makes it a crime to sleep 'in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart of waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence'. People can be fined up to £1,000 and given a two-year criminal record under an act which specifically targets the most marginalised in our society, and thousands face arrest every year.

The Vagrancy Act is just one segment of a system of criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) can make it illegal to beg or sleep rough within a given area. A raft of other ‘anti-social behaviour’ measures, from Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) to dispersal orders, give police and councils powers to move rough sleepers on, or give them a hefty fine. A study by the charity Crisis showed that 73% of rough sleepers experienced some kind of criminalisation in the last year. People experiencing homelessness can be intensely vulnerable. Too often these measures trap people in a cycle, faced with fines they cannot pay and with a growing mistrust of those official council services they should be turning to for help.

No more can we threaten to fine people who have nothing. No more can we accept legislation which targets rough sleepers as criminals, when they are far more likely to be victims of harassment, violence and abuse. We're calling for an end to the Vagrancy Act, and for councils and police forces to cease using all measures which ban begging and rough sleeping or target those experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness is effectively a criminal offence. We’re demanding a different approach.


Rachael Maskell MP, York Central
Hugh Gaffney MP, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Brighton Kemptown
Catherine West MP, Hornsey and Wood Green
Karen Lee MP, Lincoln
Shaista Aziz, Councillor, Oxford East
Lara McNeill, NEC Youth Member, Tottenham
Gabriela Salva Macallan, Councillor, Bethnal Green and Bow
Paul Bell, Cabinet Member for Housing, Lewisham Deptford
Seema Chandwani, Councillor, Tottenham
Sasha das Gupta, Councillor, East Ham
Daniel Stone, Councillor, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Apsana Begum, CLP Secretary, Poplar and Limehouse
Rida Vaquas, Young Labour NC member, Oxford East
Alena Ivanova, CLP Policy Officer, Bethnal Green and Bow CLP
Christine Shawcroft, Branch Secretary, Poplar and Limehouse
David Thomas, CLP Political Education Officer, Hove & Portslade
Amna Abdullatif, Manchester City Party Chair, Central Manchester
Sarah Dorman, Lewisham Deptford
Christian Wolmar, Islington
Alex Kumar, Oxford East
Puru Miah, Councillor, Bethnal Green and Bow
Richard Howlett, Councillor, Oxford East
Martyn Rush, Councillor, Oxford East
Nadine Bely-Summers, Councillor, Oxford East
Anjna Khurana, Councillor, Islington North
Salman Shaheen, Councillor for Isleworth, Chair of the Labour Group on Hounslow Council, Brentford & Isleworth
Annette Wright, Councillor, Manchester
David Hall, County Councillor, City of Durham
Sara Hyde, Councillor, Islington South and Finsbury
Shamshia Ali, Councillor, Ilford North
Sheila Chapman, Councillor, Islington North
Nurullah Turan, Councillor, London Borough of Islington
Lucy Caldicott, Councillor, Vauxhall
Mohamed Jaser, Councillor, Vauxhall
John Woolf, Councillor, Islington South
Clare McIntyre, Councillor, Wavertree
James McAsh, Councillor, Camberwell and Peckham
Doug James, Councillor & Ward Chair, Walsall South
Dee Martin, Councillor, Ealing North
Mark Blake, Councillor, Hornsey Wood Green
Eldridge Culverwell, Haringey Councillor, Stroud Green
Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Councillor, Oxford East
Lewis Cox, Councillor, Ealing North
James Chiriyankandath, Councillor, Haringey; Tottenham GC delegate, Tottenham
Ben Clay, Councillor, Withington
Mike Rowley, Councillor, Oxford East
Maurice McLeod, Councillor, Tooting
Jumbo Chan, Councillor, Brent Central
Mahir Demir, Councillor, Hornsey & Wood Green
Clare Joseph, Councillor, Hackney South
Matt White, Councillor, Tottenham
Ben Mackmurdie, Councillor, Islington
Santiago Bell-Bradford, Councillor, Islington North
Holly Kal-Weiss, Treasurer, Chipping Barnet
Coral Jones, CLP Chair, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Lizzy Ali, CLP Chair, Leyton and Wanstead
Rabyah Khan, Co-Chair, Oxford & District Labour Party
Mark Whiley, LGBT+ Officer, Labour International CLP
Nada Al-Sanjari, SE Regional Board, Maidenhead
Sacha Ismail, Lewisham East
Peter Greenwood, Darlington
Zebulun Sansom, Former Chair of Harborough CLP, Holborn and Saint Pancras
Heather Mendick, CLP Secretary, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Alana Heaney, Branch Secretary & Vice Chair Campaigns CLP, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Mick Gilgunn, Executive Committee member, Islington North
Lisa Rossetti, Branch Secretary, City of Chester
Gillian Dalley, Branch Chair (Tollington), Islington North
Tom Barringer, General Committee delegate, Tottenham
Eloise Harris, CLP Social Media Officer, Bethnal Green & Bow
Arya Tandon, Altrincham and Sale West
Mallika Wagle, Oxford West and Abingdon
Ayaz Mohamedali, Oxford West and Abingdon
William Durrant, SOAS Labour Executive Committee, Holborn & St Pancras
Joshua Andrew, Croydon South
Charlotte Carson, Lewisham West & Penge
Caroline Raine, Branch Chair (Rose Hill, Iffley and Littlemore), Oxford East
Gavin Everall, Branch Secretary, Bow East, Bethnal Green and Bow CLP
Emma Jones, Oxford West & Abingdon CLP
Stephen Knight, Campaigns Officer, Twickenham
Gareth Morgan, Assistant Secretary, Nottingham East
Sue Richards, Womens Officer, Witney West
Gary McFarlane, Equality Officer NUJ London Branch, Haringey
Geoff Palmer, LGBT Officer, Chipping Barnet
Rosie Sourbut, Oxford University Labour Club Co-Chair, Oxford East
Lesley Carty, Secretary, South-East Cornwall
Charlotte Austin, National Policy Forum Youth Rep, Bishop Auckland CLP
Padraic Mackervaie, London Fields Ward Organizer, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Kim Coote, Womens Officer, Mole Valley CLP
Diane Mitchell , Chair, Wish & Westbourne Labour Party, Hove and PortsladeCLP
Seyi Akiwowo, Executive Committee Member, West Ham
Jordan Thornton, Adur Branch Campaign Coordinator, East Worthing and Shoreham
Matt Phypers, Social Media and Comms Officer, Gloucester
Jill Pack, Branch Secretary, Hornsey & Wood Green
Karen Purdy, Women's Officer, Stourbridge
Paul Stygal, Secretary, Milton Branch, Rochford & Southend East
Colin Nickless, Candidate, Rochford & Southend East CLP
Kate Sheehan, Local Campaign Forum Delegate, Rochford and Southend East
Rob Gardiner, NHS officer, Huntingdonshire
Andrew Moor, North Branch Chair, Darlington
Simone Longley, LCF Communications Officer, Rochford & Southend East CLP
Helen Thomas, Poole
Jay Staker, Treasurer, Oxford University Labour Club, Oxford East
Sarah Byrne, Lcf, Hackney south
Ali Dogan, LCF Representative, Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP
Sarah Bold, Ward vice chair, North Islington
Tonia Ilia, Women's Officer, Islington North
Catriona Gray, LGBT + Officer, Lewisham West and Penge
Philip Wallace, Fundraiser, Dulwich & West Norwood
Peter Nowland, Vice Chairman, Oxford East
Daniel Nichols, Political Officer, Romford
Peter Burgess Political Education Officer, Brentford and Isleworth CLP
Judy. Atkinson, Branch chair. Chiswick, Brentford & Isleworth
Edwin Darfi, GC Member, Hornsey & Wood Green
Leila Nia .
Eleanor Ormsby, West Ham
Sam Fletcher, Skipton and Ripon
Avril Alexander, Oxford West and Abingdon
Coral Price, Banbury
Dominique Cournault , Bethnal Green and Bow
Steven Carver, Bethnal Green and Bow
J.Macky, Brent
Nick Walker, Oxford East
Rhian Keyse, Exeter
Peter Mole, Bolton North East
Sandy Paul, Poplar and Limehouse
Kim Clugston, Glasgow North East
Martha Shearer, Bethnal Green and Bow
Judith Burchardt, Earley
Lilith Young, Brighton
Lydia Stein, West Ham
Liz Davies, Southampton Test
Haroun Hameed, Oxford East
Max Hardwick, South Derbyshire
Shenai Fiore, Islington
Hannah Taylor, Edinburgh East
Victoria Carter, North West Hampshire
Lily Baker, Poplar & Limehouse
Jonny Evans, North Islington
Jon Narcross, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Kenny Love, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Luke Savage, Gorton
Andrew Jeffery, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Fionnuala Quinn, Islington
Jason Hickel, Hampstead and Kilburn
Francis Quinn, Islington North
Megan Howells, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
Wojciech Dmochowski, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Stephen Lloyd, Oswestry
Katie Watson, Lewisham
Laura Clarke, Southend West
Mark Jameson, Darlington
Lyndsey Jameson, Darlington
Rory Todd, Darlington
Paul Mansfield, Southend West
Martha Southall, Rochdale
Mike Smith, Rochford & Southend East
Avril Baker, Hornsey & Wood Green
James Doran, Darlington
Toni Goodchild, Southend West
Philip Gibbins, Cambridge
Louise Graham, Darlington
Forhana Begum
Patricia Ryan, Southend West
Jasmine Flather, Oxford West and Abingdon
Dan Simmonds, Hove & Portslade
Adam Zulqarnain Mohd Said, Oxford East
Gina Harkell, Hornsey and Wood Green
Margaret Hunter, Darlington
Edward Roworth, Manchester Withington
Dominic Dalglish, Tottenham
Natalie Hoad, East Worthing and Adur
Angela Carswell, Shoreham
Jimi Cullen, Oxford East
Timothy Mullen, Stoke-on-Trent South
Sue Johnston, Worthing
Angela Picknell, Islington South
Nabeela Talib, Oxford East
Steve Lee, Ealing Central & Acton
Debbie Goddard, Eastleigh
Liz Edwards, West Oxfordshire
Nicola Goldsmith, Northampton South
Eva Elliott, Cardiff Central
Kath Maguire, St Ives
James Goldstone, Camberwell & Peckham
Lamis Hamdi, Oxford East
Juliet Shapiro, Kensington and Chelsea
Louise Davies, East Worthing
Carolyn Doran, Corby
Stephen Smith, Mitcham and Morden
Jane Middleton, Bath
Yvonne Pinner, Oxford
Sobia Afridi, Oxford
Anisha Faruk, Oxford East
Iris Kaye-Smith, Oxford East
Mark Lygo, Oxford East
Kim Tan, Leeds West
Blue Weiss, Oxford East
Jake Davies, Oxford East
Ray Williams, Oxford East
Isabella Welch, Bristol West
Pete Willsband, RMT
Kath McDonnell, Morden
Stephen Wood, Hornsey and Wood Green
Phil Wallace
Marie Lynam, Hampstead and Kilburn
Jan Nieber, Haringey
William Miles
Sally Richards, Richmond
Denzil Monk, St Ives
Justine Jenkins, Bridgend
Lilith, Brighton Pavillion
Judith Burchardt, Earley
Laurel Wingfield, Bayswater
Judy Snowball, Ealing Central & Acton
Mandy Thompson, Salisbury
Valerie Woolgar
John Shelton, Bolsover
Rob Lennon, Vesey
Kristen Barrett-Casey, Bradford West
Colin Greenfield, Maidenhead
Joe Lovell-McNamee, Salford and Eccles
Meriel Colenutt, Oxford West and Abingdon
Robin Malloy, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Antoinette Paphides, Croydon South
Gill Millman, Croydon South
Maga Flores-Trevino, Oxford East
Jeevan Ravindran, Oxford East
Freya Hanley, Newton Abbot
Teresa Gray, Old Bexley and Sidcup
Anita Conradi, Battersea
Helen Cassidy, Croydon North
Anna Day, OBS Community Organisor, Old Bexley & Sidcup
Thomas Fisk, Darlington
Ollie Potter, Vauxhall
David Stirrup, Carmarthen and East Dinefwr
Nadia Whittome, Rushcliffe
Bob Webb, York Central
Matthew Rose, Canterbury
Rowan Fortune, Brentford and Isleworth
Patrick Bettington, Bethnal Green and Bow
Namaa AL-Mahdi, Feltham and Heston
Anisha Faruk, Oxford East
Allison Mccarthy, Merthyr Tydfil
Paul Murgatroyd, Manchester Gorton
Emma Blease, Frome
David Dewhurst, Brentford and Isleworth
Hendrix Lancaster, Eccles
John Kenton, Hounslow