'In the 20 years of rough sleeping I have never come across or been offered anything like this at all. I’ve been through homeless systems before and none of them helped. I get so much support and I’m so grateful.’

In 2020, and as part of a pilot partnership with Cambridge City Council, our first Housing First customer moved into their new Catalyst home.

What is Housing First?

Housing First offers housing and support to prepare people who

have experienced homelessness, and chronic health and social care needs for independent living in their own home setting, rather than a hostel. The programme requires collaborative working across different services, with social landlords playing an important role in providing accommodation.

Nick, Donna’s Housing First Enhanced Navigator – offering one-on-one coaching, support and advice – explained what’s involved in the project, ‘Housing First offers a wraparound client led support package for those unfortunate enough to have endured homelessness and have failed to navigate the normal route to housing. We focus on a person’s strengths and offer support for as long as it’s needed.’

Nick worked with our Housing, Lettings and Legal teams, alongside Cambridge City Council’s Home First team, to help Donna move into her new home in November 2020. Before this she’d been homeless and living on the streets for 20 years.

Donna said, ‘The support I receive is ongoing for as long as I need. I think this is great as there is no set time and certainly no rush, which in my experience is essential.’

How is this approach different?

For Donna the support is different to anything she’s previously received, ‘The support that I get is something I’ve never had before. I’ve got support with my finances such as setting up Universal Credit, utility bills and my bank account. They also bought furniture and white goods, which made my flat my home.’

The Housing First approach is more than just financial and practical support, as Donna explains, ‘If I’m feeling down, I can ring Nick for a chat and he’ll come round to see me if I need more support. He also helps me with going to my appointments, staying in touch with my GP, drug support workers and support groups too.’

The support that Donna receives is intensive and person-centred, ‘In the 20 years of rough sleeping I have never come across or been offered anything like this at all.  I’ve been through homeless systems before and none of them helped. I get so much support and I’m so grateful.’

What’s next for the project

Donna is now settled in her new home and continues to work with Nick and the Housing First team. Our teams are working on plans to develop the project across our communities too.

If you’d like to find out more about Housing First, you can visit hfe.homeless.org.uk