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Mayor’s life-changing Housing First pilot saves taxpayer nearly £35,000 for every person helped

  • Pioneering Liverpool City Region scheme to tackle homelessness shows average saving of £34,500 a year per person
  • Housing First is twice as cost effective as other schemes for helping people into homes
  • Clients are 3.5 times more likely to sustain their tenancy than those without it

An independent study has found that the Housing First programme launched by Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, is saving taxpayers an average £34,500 a year for each person it helps out of homelessness.

Independent consultants Beyond Better monitored 20 service users being supported by the ground-breaking scheme over the course of a year – comparing the cost of the programme to the likely cost to the public purse if they had not received help.

Savings ranged from £27,000 to £66,000 a year for people on the Housing First programme, which is specifically targeted at entrenched homelessness and those with complex needs.

Taking into account Housing First costs, the annual saving to the taxpayer stood at an average £34,500 for each service user.

Meanwhile, a second report, commissioned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, evaluated the programme’s activity.

Consultants Campbell Tickell found the pilot was 3.5 times more effective in supporting homeless people to secure and sustain tenancies compared to traditional methods, and while Housing First cost more, it was twice as cost effective.

Engagement with other services, such as drug and alcohol support had also improved for 68% of Housing First service users, many of whom have personal histories characterised by multiple, long-term and severe trauma.

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said:

“The measure of any decent society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. There has been an alarming rise in homelessness over the past decade, while the ongoing cost of living crisis is forcing many into homelessness and destitution as they struggle to make ends meet. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“One of the first policies I introduced when I was elected was Housing First. It’s a totally different way of working that radically changes the way that our region helps rough sleepers. Treating people with dignity, recognising that they are human beings not statistics, and offering them wraparound support to deal with often very complex needs, we’re helping to provide a safety net in these hard times. I like to think of it as radical kindness.

“We have helped more than 220 people out of homelessness, with 90% of them getting their first secure tenancy in their lifetime. But this isn’t about the numbers or statistics. What matters is that people’s lives have been transformed for the better, offered a second chance to turn their lives around.

“As this new research shows, not only is our Housing First scheme helping people in our region, but it’s also helping the taxpayer too by saving money compared with traditional approaches. Given the pressures on public finances caused by 12 hard years of austerity, that is money that can be invested back into providing much-needed services. Due to the effects of the government’s mini-budget, it is likely that there will be more and more people we will need to support.”

One of only three Housing First pilot scheme in England, Liverpool City Region’s programme is currently supporting more than 200 people – with nearly 90% sustaining their tenancy.

The Liverpool City Region has been praised for the way its programme sticks closely to Housing First’s seven founding principles. These are focused on enabling the service user and research has found that programmes are more effective, the closer they adhere to core principles.

The Campbell Tickell report commended the programme’s flexible and problem-solving approach and found the collaborative way it is working with multiple agencies has helped bring about wider cultural changes. These include understanding and acting upon how trauma may have impacted a person psychologically and what those triggers might be, as well as having a more flexible approach to evictions.

Graham Morgan, the Combined Authority’s Portfolio Holder for Housing and Spatial Framework said:

“The Combined Authority has been able to focus on a new approach to homelessness with Housing First. It’s encouraging to see how understanding the complex histories of the service users, combined with the joined- up agency approach has been recognised in the city region and how it is benefitting people.

“Housing First is a long-term solution and I welcome the findings of the studies which will enable us to further solidify the direction we want to go in.”

Service user ‘Monica’ said:

“My support worker recognised what support I needed and I spent some time in hospital improving my mental health. Housing First made sure I didn’t lose my tenancy while I was getting better and now I choose not to drink or do drugs. I really think of my support worker as my friend and I love all the things we do together and how they are always there for me. I can’t thank them enough for how my life has changed.”

Based on successful schemes from around the world, Housing First uses a different approach to end repeat and chronic homelessness. In traditional homeless services, people are expected to demonstrate they are ‘housing ready’ before they can access a tenancy. In Housing First, providing a home is the starting point rather than an end goal.

It then provides individual, targeted support to deal with mental and physical health issues such as addiction and the effects of trauma and abuse.