Why Housing First Should Be Central to a Mission-Led Labour Government

(Credits: WSWS)

Keir Starmer‘s commitment to a ‘Mission Government’ heralds a departure from short-term solutions towards tackling systemic issues, with a particular focus on homelessness and rough sleeping.

Under Conservative governance, rough sleeping reached record levels in 2017, briefly subsiding due to pandemic measures before resurging by 27% in 2023. Alarmingly, since 2021, rough sleeping has surged by a staggering 60%.

As the former Shadow Homelessness Minister and current Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, I have engaged with numerous charities that echo my frustrations over the government’s short-sighted approach.

Starme (Credits: The Independent)

Funding for homelessness services often spans a mere six months, emphasizing crisis interventions over long-term solutions. This perpetuates a cycle of homelessness, leaving individuals trapped in a revolving door.

I advocate for expanding Housing First initiatives under a Labour government to break free from this cycle. Housing First offers immediate housing alongside intensive support for individuals with complex needs, including mental health issues, substance abuse, and a history of offending.

With tenancy sustainment rates between 70% and 90%, Housing First has proven highly effective, virtually eradicating rough sleeping in Finland.

Although the government has provided funding for Housing First pilots in specific areas, this assistance is set to conclude by 2025. In other regions, Housing First initiatives depend on the commitment of local authorities and charities, navigating through a difficult funding environment.

The significance of Housing First extends beyond reducing rough sleeping. Recent research by Homeless Link underscores its long-term social benefits.

Keir Starmer (Credits: The Economist)

After three years, Housing First residents reported significant improvements in physical and mental health, shifting from costly emergency services to preventative healthcare. Notably, for every £1 invested in Housing First, £1.56 is saved from the public purse in the long run.

Housing First has led to a substantial reduction in antisocial behavior and criminal justice involvement among residents. By addressing the root causes of homelessness, Housing First transforms individual lives, alleviates strain on public services, and reduces societal costs associated with homelessness.

Expanding Housing First initiatives nationwide is imperative in line with Starmer’s vision for a ‘Mission Government. ‘ By prioritizing long-term solutions and investing in initiatives proven to yield tangible outcomes, Labour aims to create a society where everyone has access to safe and stable housing, laying the foundation for a more equitable and compassionate future.