Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Housing
15 July 2019updated 25 Jul 2021 3:08pm

Liverpool City Region to begin groundbreaking anti-homelessness pilot

By Jonny Ball

This week, 16 new staff in Merseyside will begin the first phase of a radical new approach to tackling homelessness known as Housing First, as 60 homeless people across the city region are given a settled home. Until now, standard practice has been to move homeless individuals through “levels” of housing, from rough sleeping on the streets then on to public shelters, through to transitional housing programmes, and eventually on to living in their own dwellings in the community. Housing First approaches make provision of guaranteed individual housing the first step in ending street sleeping, as an alternative to emergency shelters or transitional housing.

Last year, homelessness charities reported that street homelessness was up 169 per cent since 2010, which many of the Conservatives’ critics have blamed on policies such as universal credit rollout and cuts to local authority budgets.

Having been awarded £7.7m from central government to fund the pilot, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, along with Greater Manchester Council (receiving £8m) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (£9.6m), will be one of the first areas for the initiative to be tried and tested in the UK. Following similar schemes in the US and Europe, evidence shows that Housing First strategies are effective in reducing the incidence of rough sleeping and contributing to decreased rates of homelessness. In the US, there have also been positive knock-on effects, including a reduction in chronically homeless individuals using public hospital resources, a reduction in incarceration rates, and significantly improved mental health outcomes.

Steve Rotheram, the first Metro Mayor for Liverpool City Region and former Parliamentary Private Secretary to Jeremy Corbyn, campaigned on a manifesto promise to introduce Housing First initiatives to the city in 2017. “Housing First is based on a simple premise,” he said, “that the first thing homeless people need is a decent place to live. At the same time, we have to ensure that they have the right support to tackle their further needs, which may be compounded by experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill health.”

Under Housing First programmes, health, addiction, employment and related support services are delivered directly to the housing. There are no preconditions for remaining housed such as treatment acceptance or compliance, and so continued tenancy does not depend on participation in these services. Some addiction researchers in the US have criticised Housing First for its failure to address broader outcomes such as substance abuse.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up