Housing First Australia

Housing First Principles for Australia

Development

The Housing First Principles for Australia have been developed to promote the implementation of Housing First Australia-wide.  This consistent and locally relevant set of principles, is intended to be used in the Australian context to train staff, and to design services with fidelity to Housing First.

Housing First is an international model for housing and supporting people who have experienced long term and reoccurring homelessness and who face a range of complex challenges. It supports strategies to end homelessness and is a methodology for effectively assisting some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Australian and international evidence demonstrate that delivery of a high-fidelity Housing First approach is both very successful and economically viable. The following sources have been drawn upon, to facilitate consistency between the Housing First Principles for Australia and the high-fidelity model:

 

  • A review of Housing First principles used in the United States, Canada, Europe and England, synthesised to form a consistent set of principles
  • Language and learnings from Housing First manuals developed in both Europe and England have been incorporated
  • Insights from Train the Trainer delivered by the European Housing First Hub
  • Practice experience and knowledge of Australian Housing First practitioners participating in the European Train the Trainer program
  • Input from Indigenous practitioners indicating how the principles can reference and reflect their cultural context.

It is recommended that:

  • the following principles are used as a general set of Housing First principles for Australia
  • that further work and consultation be considered to develop both Indigenous and youth variations (in the same way Canada has developed a set of Housing First principles for youth).

While the HF approach is specific to those with long term and reoccurring homelessness, the principles can also be applied more generally to ‘’housing led’’ approaches to practice with other cohorts of people without a home. [1]

Principles

People have a right to a home

  • Access – Immediate access to a permanent, self-contained home which meets people’s cultural and social needs
  • Eligibility – No treatment or behavioural eligibility pre-conditions
  • Tenancy – People enjoy full tenancy rights and standard rental conditions with security of tenure
  • Suitability – Location, affordability, access to services and quality of property meets the specific needs of the individual or family that are housed.  Considerations include safety and community connections, and for people with physical disability - maximising their capacity to live independently
  • Sustainability – People are able to keep their homes if they have absences for family, cultural or other reasons (eg. hospital or prison stays) and are assisted to quickly find a new home if a tenancy fails
  • Safety – The housing provided must be safe and secure.

Flexible support for as long as it is needed

  • Continuity – Support does not have a fixed end date and people can return to or continue support for as long as needed
  • Holistic – Support is directed by the people receiving the support, and is available across a wide variety of domains being sensitive to people’s family context, cultural identity and past trauma
  • Intensity – Support intensity can rise and fall with individual or family need so services can respond positively when people need more or less support on a day to day basis
  • Accessibility – People are able to quickly re-engage with support without needing to undergo a new assessment or intake process
  • Relationship – Support is built from an authentic relationship and it is practical, flexible and creative – responding to each unique set of circumstances as required.

Housing and support are separated

  • Separation – While they work closely together to maintain and support tenancies, the provision of housing and support must be functionally separate.    This is to ensure housing and support are not contingent upon one another and unwavering advocacy is provided for for the individual or family
  • Tenancy – There are no additional requirements to participate in support or treatment as part of the tenancy and people are able to maintain their home regardless of their engagement in support services
  • Continuity – The offer of support stays with the person if they choose to move home or if a tenancy fails.  The support is available to people in their new living situations including a return to homelessness or to an institutional setting where support will actively assist people secure new homes

Security – People are supported to follow the terms of their tenancies in the same way as anyone else renting a home.  Support services work to maintain tenancies while understanding the critical part a home plays in the wellbeing of both individuals and families.

Choice and self-determination

  • Home – People define for themselves what makes a place a home which may include connection to particular land.  People are given a choice of where they live and the type of housing in which they want to live.
  • Support – People are able to make real choices about how they live their lives and these choices determine the support they receive including how, where, when and by whom it is provided
  • Household – People are able to choose with whom they live, who they invite into their own home and whether visitors are able to stay
  • Person-centred – Support acknowledges that the best way to understand and respond to people’s needs, is to listen to their views and questions, so that any planning is directly responsive to their particular concerns and dreams. This approach respects each individual and that person’s strengths rather than focusing negatively on each person’s limitations.

Active engagement without coercion

  • Responsibility – The onus is on workers to maintain the relationship and employ creative and imaginative approaches to ensure their work is engaging rather than blaming people for “disengaging”
  • Persistence – While individuals and families can refuse support, staff persist without intruding and use their relationship to make ongoing and regular offers in ways that show care and respect for people
  • Compassion – A deep understanding of people, means that support is designed to fit the individual rather than the individual being required to fit the service
  • Availability – Caseloads are small and support is available outside normal working hours. This allows workers to be persistent and proactive in their approach, doing “whatever it takes” and not giving up and closing when engagement is low
  • Trust – Because of people’s past experiences of trauma, extended homelessness and exclusion, it is critical that services build trust and have a strong commitment to “doing what they say”, so they are experienced as trauma and gender informed, reliable and transparent.

Recovery orientated practice

  • Recovery – Understanding that recovery is not about an expectation that people be symptom free.  Rather recovery focusses on people being able to recover a sense of themselves and their place in their community
  • Hope – Support offers hope and actively encourages people to dream and imagine a future for themselves; a future focusing on gaining a sense of purpose with the prospect of enjoying a good and secure life
  • Dignity of risk – A process of trial and error involving small steps forward and backward celebrating successful experiences but also learning from experiences of pain and frustration without a sense of shame
  • Strengths – Celebrating and working with people’s capacity and abilities that are quite separate from any diagnosis they may have
  • Appropriate – to developmental stage, cultural and gender identities.

Social and community inclusion

  • Belonging – Social and community inclusion is an integral part of support as it rebuilds a sense of self and connection to others, which in turn is a protective factor for people’s tenancy, health and well-being
  • Relationships – People are supported to build friendships and relationships within their community, and where possible to reconnect with family, culture and those who are important to them
  • Participation – People are supported to participate in a wide range of pursuits including education, employment and volunteering opportunities as well as cultural, artistic and recreational activities
  • Community – Homes exist as part of a community.  Support not only helps people connect to that community, but also uses strategies to build acceptance amongst neighbours of people with different experiences, lifestyles, and appearances.

Harm reduction approach

  • Safety – Support uses a wide range of proactive strategies to assist people to reduce the negative impact of substance use, gambling, self-harm and potentially high-risk behaviours
  • Education – Factual information is provided in a non-judgmental style to enable people to make informed choices about their health, tenancy and relationship with others
  • Change – Support is guided by individual choice and for those who choose it, connections are made to specialist services that are accessible and culturally appropriate. Support also is mindful that recovery is not a linear journey and does not necessarily require abstinence
  • Inclusion – Housing and/or support are not withdrawn from people who choose to continue to drink, use, self-harm, gamble or participate in high-risk activities.

Acknowledgements

The association of Homelessness Australia (HA) with the Housing First Europe Hub (HFEH) has been made possible through the generosity of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (LMCF) in Melbourne.  LMCF has funded the Council to Homeless Person’s in Victoria to support HA’s Associate Membership of the HFEH and the participation of advanced practitioners from around Australia in the HFEH Train the Trainer program to lead training of practitioners from across Australia.

These guidelines have been drafted by these HF trainers: Rosie Dodd (Launch Housing), Natasha Rodrigues (Micah Projects), Tamara Sequeira (Homelessness NSW) and Leah Watkins (Ruah Community Services).  These organisations have provided significant in kind support to enable their employee’s participation.  Ruah Community Services and the Sisters of  St John of God have also directly funded Leah Watkin’s participation. 

The guidelines were adopted by the HA Board on  5 March 2020.

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[1] Pleace N and Bretherton J 2013 ‘The Case for Housing First in the European Union:  A Critical Evaluation of Concerns about Effectiveness’ in European Journal of Homelessness Volume 7, No. 2. Pp. 21-41.