A national project in Coventry and across the West Midlands region, and two other city regions, is being introduced to target people who are homeless and rough sleeping by helping to provide both accommodation and wraparound support.
Housing First is now to be adopted in Coventry. Along with Liverpool and Greater Manchester The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has received government funding to pilot the Housing First approach which supports vulnerable, homeless people with multiple and complex needs.
The new service will be led by Midlands-based organisation Brighter Futures. The contract, worth £1.3m over three years was successfully commissioned by Coventry City Council and will be implemented to help to reduce Coventry’s growing homelessness numbers. It will operate 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year.
Brighter Futures, which has been supporting vulnerable people with complex needs since 1974 with homelessness services, accommodation and mental health support, have announced that they have successfully secured the contract to deliver the Housing First project in Coventry.
Brighter Futures will be working with partners at ARC CIC (a drug and alcohol outreach service) and Coventry City Council.
The new service will be put in place over the next 12 weeks; a team will be recruited and in place, and referrals will be taken as early as August.
ARC C.I.C a drug and alcohol outreach service set up in 2018 will provide support through experts with lived experience, people who have first-hand experience of complex needs such as sleeping rough, mental health, drug and/or alcohol issues. Coventry City Council will provide suitable properties and work closely with the Housing First team.
Cllr Tariq Khan, Cabinet Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, said: “We have a co-ordinated approach to reducing homelessness in Coventry and this is a high priority for the Council.
“I’m really pleased that we can get this scheme up and running. It will help us to make an impact, especially on homelessness people and rough sleepers who have more complex needs.
“Housing First is a key part in our strategy to tackle rough sleeping in the city.”
Louise Morley from ARC C.I.C, added: “There is already a number of agencies working hard to address the difficulties that rough sleepers face. The wraparound support is absolutely vital, and we are looking forward to working with Brighter Futures.
“It’s about people feeling valued, to have some sort of stability in their lives.”
Brighter Futures are one of only a handful of organisations nationally to be blazing the trail in tackling homelessness with its current Housing First service.
It has received national recognition for the work that is already underway in Stoke-on-Trent.
The overarching principle of the Housing First model is that housing is seen as a human right. Its approach places no conditions around housing readiness. Instead it provides housing ‘first’, as a matter of right rather than ‘last’ or as a reward’. It is based on the fundamental philosophy to provide a stable independent home and intensive personalised support to people who are homeless and who have multiple or complex needs.
Jane Turner, Housing First Manager in Coventry and National Housing First Trainer said: “All too often someone who is homeless or sleeping rough is asked to ‘sort themselves out’ first, to address their mental ill-health or their drug and alcohol dependencies before they are given a home.
“Yet how can we really expect someone to address all this when they don’t even have a basic human right – a roof over their head.
“Yes, they have to be prepared to engage with us to work to maintain their tenancies, but we start with a roof over their heads first – and then we provide the wraparound support to help address their needs.
“We pride ourselves on our close working with our partners to help people move away from homelessness. People for who other approaches simply haven’t worked.”
Brighter Futures approach to working with people with lived experience who have all experienced multiple needs such as combinations of mental ill-health, homelessness, addiction and offending is at the heart of delivering a service that truly meets the needs of the people it is supporting.
The new service, based in Coventry, will recruit and train local people and will offer nine posts as well as a number of paid peer mentor jobs.
The aim of the service is to not only reduce homelessness but to leave a legacy of increased employability and skills of local people, through training, experience and development. Brighter Futures paid peer mentoring model means no peer mentor will be at a financial detriment for taking paid work.
April was referred to Brighter Futures Housing First Stoke-on-Trent service with a long history of tenancy breakdown, hostel exclusions, poor physical and mental health, drug and alcohol dependency. April was so chaotic that most services had barred her. The first priority with April a home - and to address her urgent health needs.
April said: ‘The day I knew the service was working; John (my peer mentor), and I had gone for a coffee, I was having a meltdown, I felt angry, frustrated and was ranting.
“But I looked at John, I could see he genuinely cared. I knew this could work. I’d be dead by now otherwise. They picked me up, scraped me down and believed in me. They helped me believe I could be more. They never judged me. I knew everyone would speak to each other. I want to be a peer mentor now. I believe in me.’
April is now managing her health well, maintaining her tenancy, enrolled in college, and looking to the future.