Wherever possible homelessness should be prevented. Person-centred, timely solutions make this feasible (see Chapter 6 ‘Preventing homelessness’). If homelessness cannot be avoided it should be rare, brief and non-recurring. Rapid rehousing approaches, within a housing-led system, are critical in making this happen.
A housing-led system provides stable, appropriate accommodation and any necessary support as quickly as possible to people who are homeless or at risk of it.
This housing-led approach, when properly applied, means the need for many forms of interim accommodation will diminish. However, some emergency temporary accommodation will always be necessary for people in immediate need.
This chapter applies the following key elements of rapid rehousing.
Rapid rehousing is an approach for people whose first and most important need is to access housing; with a lack of it often the main reason why they are homeless. Rapid rehousing helps people settle quickly back with family or friends, into private rented, social housing or other affordable and safe long-term housing options
This chapter is focussed on achieving the third element of our definition of ‘homelessness ended’.
Definition 3: No one living in emergency accommodation such as shelters and hostels without a plan for rapid rehousing into affordable, secure and decent accommodation.
The definition does not mean emergency temporary accommodation is not needed. It simply states the best outcomes (for the person and the public purse) are achieved when people can access affordable, secure and decent accommodation quickly and with the right support.
Rapid rehousing can also be used to prevent people needing emergency accommodation in the first place. Prevention is fully addressed in Chapter 6. For those with high and complex needs, Housing First is the recommended approach to rapid rehousing. See Chapter 9 ‘The role of Housing First in ending homelessness’.
Evidence and recommendations in this chapter are informed by the national consultation and an evidence review of what works to tackle homelessness from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). There are also several studies and evaluations of resettlement and rehousing programmes from the 1990s and 2000s that have been useful.
They capture some key aspects of effective resettlement and reintegration programmes for homeless people.
Homelessness can result in the urgent need for accommodation and shelter. This demand cannot always be met by the immediate, same-day provision of secure, long-term and stable accommodation.
During our consultation to inform this plan, people with lived experience of homelessness said safe and secure emergency accommodation was extremely important – especially for people who suddenly become homeless.
Below are examples of the most prevalent forms of emergency accommodation. All provide vital assistance to thousands of people across Great Britain every night. However, none are a permanent or stable solution that can end the homelessness of their individual clients or residents.
‘Unsuitable’ temporary accommodation
These categories of emergency provision, with limited facilities, are not suitable or acceptable other than in an absolute emergency. A number of studies have identified the dangers and drawbacks of considering on-going emergency accommodation as an appropriate response to homelessness.
‘The emergency options available are pretty grim. It is only floor space when it is full, people may be sleeping on the floor. It is very chaotic and the first night is terrifying.’ Consulation participant, Cardiff
The Scottish Government has set the highest standard in limiting this use of ‘unsuitable temporary accommodation’ to no more than seven days, for certain homeless groups. This standard should be applied for all homeless people, including single homeless people currently excluded from time limits in Scotland, across Great Britain.
Emergency accommodation may also include hostels, which can play a vital role in providing time-limited interim accommodation for people who experience homelessness. Hostels should not be confused with the sorts of unsuitable emergency accommodation above.
In England, the hostel system is a very large part of the response to homelessness. It focuses on single homeless people. There are approximately 1,121 projects providing 34,947 bed-spaces of accommodation (a decrease of 3% since 2016). Just over half the projects (580) range between one and 19 beds in size.
However, 541 accommodation services are 20 units or greater in size; and 161 projects over 50 beds in size. This level of sharing in communal spaces can be stressful and difficult to manage for people with mental health problems and other support needs.
Homeless Link’s 2017 survey found that 32 per cent of hostel residents had complex needs. Fifty nine per cent of projects said they had turned people away because their needs were too high, and 42 per cent because their needs were too complex.
At the other extreme, the survey found that 18 per cent of services had refused people because their support needs were too low. The Homeless Link survey for 2016 noted that 30 per cent of people in hostels and supported housing were capable of living independently, but had nowhere to go, and 40 per cent were job seekers. Many hostels in England received significant infrastructure investment under the Hostel Capital Improvement Programme and Places of Change programmes in the 2000s. These programmes transformed many traditional hostels.
During this time this investment was used to ensure hostel buildings offered positive, welcoming environments. Many had en suite rooms, self-catering facilities, and on-site training and skills suites.
Hostels had previously been characterised by shared dormitories and washing facilities, screens and barriers to maintain security and restrictive regimens, including limited meal times and curfews. The Places of Change capital programme was backed up with investment in the hostel work force and training for managers and staff in providing ‘psychologically informed environments’.
In Wales, smaller hostels, typically with up to 20 bed-spaces, are the norm, alongside a small number of larger projects in Cardiff. Many local authority areas have populations that are dispersed and would not support large direct access hostels.
In Scotland, and in Glasgow and Edinburgh in particular, there were a number of large institutional hostels that closed during the 2000s. People were resettled into new or existing supported accommodation or permanent mainstream accommodation.
However, even the best remaining hostels still include shared spaces and environments, which compromise privacy and autonomy and can prove to be difficult for some people. The Glasgow hostel closure programme evaluation found that 60 per cent of those rehoused into mainstream accommodation were coping well and finding independent living easy. A further 38 per cent were mostly okay although with some problems.
Hostels and supported housing schemes are expensive, with average weekly rates of £171, £179 and £199 in England, Wales and Scotland respectively. A Great Britain average weekly rate was noted to be £173. This is considerably higher than the cost of mainstream housing. These higher costs are associated with: higher maintenance; repairs and renewals; the provision of communal facilities; security and health and safety costs; higher housing management, and the nature of capital funding arrangements. The larger services require 24-hour staffing to ensure support for residents is provided; access arrangements so that residents can get in immediately; and building security and maintenance.
The evidence base for the effectiveness of hostel-based emergency accommodation in ending homelessness is limited. The data collected tends to focus on experiential aspects for hostel residents. There is very little evidence relating to housing and other outcomes (see Chapter 8 ‘Ending rough sleeping’ for more detail).
A distinct form of emergency accommodation is hosted schemes or ‘Nightstops’. Host schemes aim to provide a safe, temporary, rapid rehousing option for people facing a crisis, or with no access to alternative means of support. They match accredited members of the public with a spare room to people who need a safe space to stay. Host schemes can take referrals from local authorities.
They can provide homeless people with the safety and security of accommodation and enable them to address any other support needs. Traditionally, they have been used to help young people, for whom large hostels with most people aged 25 or over and with additional needs may not be suitable.
Recent research from Depaul UK, a large provider of Nightstop services, found host schemes caused the least harm to young people. The schemes, however, only offer limited support with issues such as welfare benefit claims, employment and training or finding longer-term accommodation.
Some schemes offer short-term emergency accommodation to prevent people sleeping rough or from using unsuitable temporary accommodation. They may offer a ‘breathing space‘ from the family home. More than two thirds of young people who used the service came to Nightstop as a result of family breakdown.
FOR TABLES AND GRAPHS SHOWING CORE HOMELESSNESS PROJECTION FIGURES, PLEASE REFER TO THE FULL PLAN PDF.
In 2016 core homelessness in Great Britain stood at 159,900 households (142,000 in England, 11,000 in Scotland, 5,400 in Wales). These figures are fully explored in Chapter 5 ‘Projecting homlessness’.
The largest groups of core homeless households are those: sofa surfing (67,000); those staying in hostels, refuges and shelters (41,700), and those in ‘unsuitable’ temporary accommodation (19,300).
Rapid rehousing can address the homelessness of people in all of these forms of accommodation.
The numbers of people living in hostels are not predicted to increase, and future investment in hostel development is uncertain. Many providers have raised concerns about the impacts of proposed changes to the funding of short-term supported housing and hostels. These changes would remove this form of housing from the Universal Credit/ welfare system for rent payments and place all revenue funding (for both the provision of bricks and mortar, management and support) with local authorities.
Rapid rehousing from hostels will be increasingly important to ensure the best possible use is made of the stock, and as detailed below, it is also essential that the financial future of good quality short-term supported housing is secure.
Housing and welfare
A pre-requisite of rapid rehousing is ensuring there is enough secure, affordable accommodation where people can be rehoused. Chapter 11 ‘Housing solutions’ details the reasons why homeless people struggle to access affordable accommodation, and proposes solutions.
A recent Homeless Link report found that 34 per cent of accommodation projects in England cited lack of available accommodation as the main barrier to their residents moving on.
Without access to appropriate accommodation, people with very few needs for support may be forced to rely upon homeless hostels. Even though these arrangements are far better than life on the streets, they may expose people to harm,18 de-skill individuals and affect people’s sense of self and confidence.
They are a costly means of accommodating people whose main need is housing.
Respondents to Homeless Link’s annual survey also said that landlords, unwilling to accept tenants on housing benefit, formed a barrier to homeless people moving on from emergency accommodation. Similar evidence comes from Wales.
It is not only private landlords who refuse tenants reliant on benefits. Social housing providers’ allocations policies and financial/ affordability restrictions also limit access to social housing for homeless people. This exacerbates the underlying impact of the continued decline in the size of the social rented sector and the supply of homes available at social rent levels.
Our recent research has identified consistent barriers faced by hostel residents accessing permanent accommodation. These include the following:
Shelter Cymru research also highlights the impact of local authorities and social housing providers in Wales undertaking financial assessments of prospective tenants. This can directly disadvantage people in emergency accommodation or moving through the homelessness system. Social housing providers were also seen to be charging up to four weeks rent in advance to protect their income as Universal Credit was introduced. This is a major barrier to homeless people accessing settled accommodation in Wales and elsewhere.
There is less evidence of such barriers to accommodation in Scotland. However, some social housing providers operate blanket policies excluding people with rent arrears. This creates barriers to access. And additional support and financial assistance is still often required to enable homeless people access to the private rented sector. In Scotland, a wider issue is that the private rented sector itself is often discounted as inappropriate in terms of an option for rehousing homeless people.
The challenges of financial assessments and other restrictions in allocations policy have been exacerbated by recent welfare changes. These have reduced the amount of rent in the private rented sector that can be covered by benefits.
The Local Housing Allowance was initially set at the 50th percentile of market rents, but was subsequently reduced to the 30th percentile. This means 70 per cent of private rented accommodation in an area is likely to be unaffordable to people on benefits or low incomes. In reality it is often far less. Local Housing Allowances have been frozen for several years. Meanwhile private rented sector rents are increasing at above – inflation rates in many areas of high demand, further reducing people’s access. See Chapter 10 ‘Making welfare work’ for a full exploration of these and other welfare issues affecting homelessness, plus necessary reforms. Housing supply, access and associated welfare constraints have hampered efforts to move homeless people into their own accommodation for a long time. However, there have been successes despite these conditions. These include the following.
Legal entitlements to rehousing
Chapter 13 ‘Homelessness legislation’ details the differences between the three legal systems in Great Britain, and proposes the ‘ideal’ framework of homelessness legislation.
The Scottish statutory framework is by far the most suitable to establish rapid rehousing. However, it is not perfect as it fails to incentivise the prevention and relief of homelessness. The abolition of priority need, which came into force in December 2012, removed the arbitrary test and systematic exclusion still faced by homeless applicants in England and Wales (albeit not for prevention and some relief duties in those nations). This change effectively extended the duty upon Scottish local authorities to provide temporary and settled accommodation to non-priority need households.
Scottish local authorities are also required to conduct a housing support assessment where they believe a homeless household could benefit from such a service. The local authority is required to ensure support is provided, where needed. This could involve help with issues including: budgeting; debt management; support in getting help from other relevant services; settling into a new tenancy, or managing an on-going tenancy.
However, challenges remain in Scotland. Evidence shows that in many local authorities, the length of time people are spending in temporary accommodation is increasing. Protracted periods in basic emergency temporary accommodation such as night shelters or bed and breakfast are detrimental to both the individual and the public purse.
Rapid rehousing into permanent accommodation clearly needs to be incorporated into the policy framework in Scotland to avoid increasing numbers being left in temporary accommodation for significant periods of time. The Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) are focusing on how to address these issues.
At the time of writing HARSAG is preparing recommendations focusing on: support in temporary accommodation; quality; standards; regulation; funding, and reducing the need for temporary accommodation altogether.
The legislative frameworks in England and Wales are far from ideal when it comes to a rapid rehousing approach. Both jurisdictions have now enshrined a preventative approach. This is a big step forward and rightly lauded, yet for homeless people for whom prevention was not possible or has failed, the same cliff-edge exists for ‘non-priority’ groups.
The Housing (Wales) Act (2014) removed automatic priority need for prison leavers. Around the same time, the Welsh Government introduced a national pathway for homelessness services for children, young people and adults in the secure estates – intended to improve resettlement planning for those leaving institutional care.
Some interviewees in The Homelessness Monitor Wales report (2017) named the removal of automatic priority need for this group as one of the causes behind the increase in rough sleeping. A Glyndwr University and University of Salford evaluation of the homelessness services provided to prison leavers is due in late spring 2018.
We don’t yet have a ‘housing-led’ approach to homelessness
The importance of self-contained, ‘normal’ housing for the reintegration of homeless people should not be underestimated. Studies have shown homeless people, even those who have been severely marginalised and homeless for a long time, have good results keeping their tenancies in normal housing. This is provided that those people who need social support are offered it and at an adequate standard.
The evidence makes it clear that the majority of homeless people who want it should be provided with mainstream, self-contained housing as quickly as possible. This will help them avoid the destabilising and marginalising effects of prolonged homelessness.
This housing-led approach is the opposite of the ‘treatment first’ philosophy. This approach requires people to demonstrate readiness for independent or mainstream housing. Expectations can include: abstinence; a reducing dependency on substances and alcohol; managing mental health conditions; and establishing a track record in rent payments and managing finances. There is little evidence available on the extent to which this model is currently applied within Great Britain.
The treatment first, or ‘staircase’ model has been the dominant approach in North America and many European contexts for decades. The Housing First movement is now challenging this, and providing evidence of comparative outcomes for homeless people in trials comparing the two.
In Great Britain, the 61,000 households living in hostels and other emergency accommodation show we are a long way from a truly housing-led system. However, we cannot characterise our whole homelessness system as treatment first. There are plenty of examples of schemes providing rapid access to accommodation for homeless people. This includes the London Clearing House scheme for rough sleepers; where people receive support to maintain tenancies, rather than to qualify for them.
However, housing-led approaches are the exception for most homeless people particularly in England and Wales where the legal framework continues to discriminate against ‘non-priority’ homelessness.
As the 2017 Homeless Link survey of hostel and supported accommodation providers showed, too many people remain in emergency temporary accommodation when they do not need to.
There will always be a key role for emergency temporary accommodation. But a housing-led system providing rapid rehousing for people with low or no support needs and Housing First for people with complex needs is urgently needed. Combined, they represent an evidence-based shift in provision and philosophy.
The provision of rapid rehousing typically involves the following.
The evidence of success through this approach, gathered by Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) for this report, is presented in the following pages.
In the US, rapid rehousing is increasingly used for families. It provides them with short-term help with housing expenses such as rent arrears, on-going rent assistance and moving costs. It also provides case management support to help them maintain their housing stability.
Many transitional rapid rehousing housing programmes in the US use a Housing First approach. This is to get families into permanent housing and keep them stable once they are there instead of providing services beforehand to get them ready for a permanent placement.
Unlike most Housing First supportive housing programmes, however, rapid rehousing is time limited. It creates a bridge allowing households to move quickly out of homelessness and back into the community, where broader mainstream resources are available. Connecting participants to mainstream services to address ongoing needs is critical to the long-term success of formerly homeless families.
Evidence shows this approach is successful. There is a low rate of people returning to homeless shelters, although families may still require interventions and support in the future. The SCIE report notes that redesigning the homelessness assistance system will not solve the housing affordability crisis. However, it may use resources more efficiently and help families leave the homeless system more quickly.
Homeless people with low support needs
Analysis from SCIE identified strong evidence of the effectiveness of rapid rehousing for people identified as having lower support needs. Keys to success included: quick and appropriate referrals; guidance about and availability of other services and benefits people might need; financial assistance, and assistance specially tailored to the client’s needs.
A 2011 study of the outcomes of resettlement of 400 single homeless people in London, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire identified successes in a range of tenures. Up to 18 months after resettlement, 81 per cent of those in social housing were still housed, alongside 69 per cent of those rehoused in the private rented sector.
The study revealed some consistent elements of success, including the following.
Support with employment, training and education, peer mentors and volunteers to help people with moving and accessing community resources were also identified as important.
They improved morale and motivation, both factors essential to a tenant’s resilience and their ability to keep their housing.
These findings reflected those of an earlier study into the tenancy outcomes for around 4,865 people housed through the Rough Sleepers Clearing House. Both studies highlight the need for housing units to be in places where tenants had support, with access to community resources, and where they felt safe. These factors give people a better chance of feeling at home and having the resilience to cope with other issues in life and the day-to-day relations with landlords and neighbours.
There are no comparative studies in the UK showing how people cope without support to quickly resettle into mainstream accommodation. However, the evidence repeatedly shows that when rapid rehousing is planned and carefully delivered for those with low support needs, it ends the homelessness of most people.
Critical Time Intervention
Rapid rehousing is often linked to the concept of Critical Time Intervention (CTI).
CTI is an evidence-based programme, with prevention at its core. Internationally, it has ended the homelessness of up to 95 per cent of people involved. CTI ensures that people leaving prison and other state institutions and those going through transitions with a homelessness risk are rapidly rehoused. It also involves giving them appropriate support before and after their new home is found.
For a more detailed explanation of CTI, see Chapter 6 ‘Preventing homelessness’.
Ensuring people are not stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation
There are thousands of people living in unsuitable temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts and nightly paid accommodation. This is detrimental to them and expensive for local authorities.
A rapid rehousing approach should be adopted. Strict time limits should be placed on the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation of no more than seven days. This should apply to all homeless households, not just families or ‘priority’ groups.
This approach is needed immediately. However, the change will not be possible across all three countries at the same time. In Scotland, this change to ensure the seven-day limit applies to all households can be made immediately. In England and Wales, the change depends on both an improved entitlement to rehousing for current ‘non-priority’ groups. It also depends on wider reforms to increase the housing provision for homeless people.
The inter-related elements to achieving successful rapid rehousing and ensuring no one is left living in emergency accommodation without a plan for moving on are:
• measures that increase the supply and access to accommodation
• interventions and services that support people through the process of rapid rehousing, and ensure they are able to maintain the accommodation.
Both elements need to be in place for this definition of core homelessness to be ended.
There are challenges to be overcome, particularly accessing suitable accommodation which remains very difficult in certain rental markets. However, the personal costs of not doing so are high. They involve people with their lives on hold in emergency accommodation, feeling unable to afford to work and contribute, struggling to maintain positive support networks, and feeling deskilled, demotivated and depressed.
Rapid rehousing makes sense for society and individuals. As evidence from the US, Europe and increasingly the Great Britain shows, re-engineering a homelessness system may take time but will make a crucial difference in ending homelessness.
7.9 Summary of recommendations