Last week, the Homeless Housing Options team attended their first in person event since the project began – Housing First Scotland’s Annual Conference.

Housing First seeks to bypass emergency and temporary accommodation, and ensure that people facing homelessness are placed in settled housing when homelessness occurs. It takes into account the impact of trauma, mental health and addiction in homelessness. The aim of Housing First is to ensure access to safe, secure housing along with the support to build a place in their community.

The event covered the steps forward achieved by the past three years of implementation of Housing First, and looked towards the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.

There were fascinating discussions on stage throughout the day from a wide variety of figures in the housing sector.

Opening the day, a selection of professionals spoke about the learning and experiences taken from the first three years of Housing First’s Pathfinder – which ran in 5 local authorities from late 2018, and finished in March 2022.

The second session brought together another group of leaders in housing to discuss how supply and access to affordable housing is required to scale up Housing First.

After lunch, Pedro and Eve took part in an animated discussion around the New Deal for Tenants consultation currently being undertaken by the Scottish Government. The key messages around this are more security for tenants (with stronger enforcement around illegal evictions and restrictions on winter evictions), as well as giving tenants greater freedom to personalise their homes, and keep pets. The main aim for this is to ensure that tenants feel that the property they rent is their home. There was extensive discussion in both Eve and Pedro’s groups around the mechanics of this, and how to make this an attractive proposition for both tenants and landlords.

Perhaps the most illuminating was the final conversation between Tyler Cary, a Homeless Network Scotland Associate, and Dr Suzanne Aziz, as they discussed some of the myriad ways that trauma can affect people within the context of homelessness. Of particular interest was a discussion about the impact that having to share one’s trauma multiple times can have when trying to access services. Our “One Named Contact” brokerage policy seeks to minimise this for our clients.

It was encouraging to see how the Housing First model fits in with Housing Options Scotland’s values around the value of a home. We were asked when we arrived to add to a wall of handwritten notes, about what “home” means to us. The words that came up most frequently were “security” and “safety”. That is important to our clients too. Housing First affords its tenants that – we hope to see it continue to develop across Scotland.

For more information on Housing First in Scotland, visit their website.