Housing First project praised by Welsh Government
published on 16 Jul 2021
A Salvation Army project offering permanent housing and support for people who have been long-term homeless has been praised by the Welsh Government.
Housing First in Cardiff prioritises providing people with a safe and warm home, then tackles the issues that led to homelessness in the first place, such as substance misuse or mental health problems.
Recognising it as a best practice model, Housing First Cardiff is the second service in Wales to receive accreditation from the Housing First Network, run by Cymorth Cymru (the body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services) and supported by the Welsh government. Welsh Climate Change Minister Julie James MS, who oversees housing, presented the team with the award at an online event this week.
Catherine Docherty, Housing First Outreach Service Manager for The Salvation Army, said: “Our approach is about stability for the vulnerable and marginalised. Our team get to know clients and support them with whatever they need for as long as they need, whether that’s advocacy, managing benefits, attending appointments, help with life skills, or substance misuse.
“Often our staff are the only stable and kind relationship our clients have. On average, they have spent 14 years living in a cycle of rough sleeping or unstable accommodation. Many have suffered trauma, been in care or in prison, and have complex needs. The majority are people that other services have found challenging to support.
“Providing a home creates a sense of safety and that starts to permeate into other areas of their lives. We see every day the difference it makes.
“It can be really challenging work, so to have the Welsh Government, Cymorth and the Housing First Network acknowledge what we are doing is fantastic for the team.
“We hope that the accreditation will define the quality of what we do, recognising that it is unique and achieves lasting change.
Launched in Cardiff in 2017, homes are provided by a housing association or the local authority, with intensive support from The Salvation Army. Of the 25 tenancies created, 23 have been successful.
Housing First works on the principle that people have the right to an affordable and habitable home, they are entitled to flexible support for as long as it is needed, and individuals should have choice and control.
Wayne, 49, who had been rough sleeping on and off since he was 15 years old and struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, moved into a Housing First property in 2017. Thanks to the support of the staff, he has now stopped using drugs and has reconnected with his estranged daughter.
Wayne said: “I’ve made massive steps to get my life sorted because of Housing First. I got to know the staff and built up a relationship and trust with them. It’s not just helping with appointments and things like that, it’s all of that stuff in between, which a lot of people take for granted.
“I love having my own front door, so I know I can shut the rest of the world out. My life was so volatile before that I could not cope with a hostel environment, so Housing First works for me.
“Now I’m making my own choices, but I could only do that because of the support Housing First has given me. I want to say a great big thank you to them. I would not have been able to do it without them - I would have been dead without them.”
Yvonne Connolly, Regional Manager of The Salvation Army's Homelessness Services Unit for Wales and the South West, said: “When she became Minister, one of Julie James’s first visits was to Housing First where she pledged her support. We are grateful to her for championing us and spending time with us so that she understands the achievements of Housing First, as well as the hard work and challenges that come with it.
“It’s a wonderful moment for Catherine and her team to be recognised as a best practice model. The evidence is there to see with the outcomes of the clients.”
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Housing, said: “Housing First is a key aspect of our rapid rehousing approach here in Wales and helps those at the most acute end of homelessness who often have extremely complex needs.
“I am very pleased to see this scheme gain the Housing First Network accreditation, and grateful to the Salvation Army for the crucial work they do to support people with such complex needs come off the streets and into a permanent home.”