Irish expert says housing first approach could help solve homelessness crisis
5 August 2019 at 5:21 pm
A housing first approach could help transform the lives of Australians experiencing homelessness but it requires strong political support to succeed, an international expert says.
Bob Jordan – who is the national director of Housing First – is driving the national rollout of this approach across Ireland.
Ahead of his keynote speech in Perth during Homelessness Week 2019, Jordan spoke to Pro Bono News about the housing first model, which prioritises permanent and stable housing for people experiencing homelessness.
“The principle of housing first is simple. It’s about providing people with a history of homelessness with a permanent house in the community and then wrapping very intensive support around them to keep them there,” Jordan said.
This model provides people with access to a multidisciplinary team of support workers, who offer services such as drug and alcohol counselling and mental health treatment.
“The best health interventions that can be made on behalf of somebody who’s chronically homeless is to give them a home,” Jordan said.
“It provides a platform for recovery in terms of mental health and addiction and other issues.”
Jordan was responsible for developing Ireland’s National Housing First Implementation Plan 2018-2021, which was launched by the government last September.
The plan was developed following a successful Housing First program in Dublin that homed more than 300 people – 88 per cent of whom remained in housing.
He said the plan got off the ground because it had support at the highest levels of government, from the prime minister down.
He added the main challenge of the approach was finding enough available housing, and support workers who could offer services on a potentially permanent basis.
You need someone with housing expertise, but also somebody with counselling expertise, with mental health expertise, addiction expertise and people who can offer services locally,” he said.
“That’s what really what defines the housing first program, a commitment to provide people with permanent housing, but also provide them with a permanent availability of support if needed.”
Jordan said a housing first approach could absolutely work in Australia – noting the successful 50 Homes 50 Lives project in Western Australia – but said it required strong political support.
He said housing first programs have already been rolled out successfully all over Europe, in places including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Helsinki, Lisbon, London and Paris.
“There’s no context or country in which this program can’t be rolled out successfully,” he said.
“But it requires a promise that you’ll put people in housing and if they lose that housing, you’ll give them another house, and ensure people are always there to support them.
“That requires commitments at the highest level to make it work.”
Bob Jordan will be speaking in Perth on 8 August. More information about the Shelter WA event can be found here.