Alleviating poverty, bringing hope

NOAH Successfully Ends Rough Sleeping for 15 Long-Term Homeless People in Luton

The pioneering Housing First scheme funded via Luton Borough Council (LBC) has successfully helped get 15 people off the streets and into homes.

Luton follows on from the ground-breaking work done in the Housing First pilot cities of Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, and West Midlands by implementing a project that has housed 15 people who have been homeless for years. All of those helped were struggling with years of drug or alcohol addiction and have experienced heart-breaking trauma and abuse in their lives. As part of the project they have been supported into adjusting to life in their own home and given wrap-around support for their many complex mental and physical health conditions and helped with starting their drug recovery journeys.

The Housing First approach was first developed in New York by Pathways to Housing in 1992. It has since been widely adopted in the USA and become central to the national homelessness strategies in Canada, Denmark, Finland and France, demonstrating widespread success.

Housing First is a housing and support approach which gives people who have experienced homelessness and chronic health and social care needs a stable home from which to rebuild their lives. In addition to this it provides open-ended wrap-around support to people that is intensive, person-centered and holistic via an outreach worker from NOAH. The support and the accommodation places no conditions on individuals, only that they should desire to have a tenancy.

In Luton, Housing First has rehomed 15 people who had been homeless for years, many of whom are survivors of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, have experienced drug and alcohol addiction, and have mental and physical health problems. Two of those helped in Luton were both victims of childhood sexual abuse which had been factors leading to their substance misuse and later homelessness.

As a result of the help from Housing First, 12 out of the 15 people are now engaged with drug or substance recovery pathways and are now either speaking with a drug counsellor or the local substance misuse service, or taking methadone prescription. Housing First’s role in this was vital, as the outreach workers from NOAH who worked one-on-one with clients within Housing First stated how their clients would never have been on methadone prescription if they were not in a home. As one outreach worker put it, “Housing First is a platform for clients to make changes in their lives”. This unconditional wrap-around support is a key reason why Housing First has proven to be so successful; because it treats the person as an adult and gives them the choice and control over their treatment needs. By being unconditional, it receives better engagement and effort from its clients.

Close collaborative professional relationships between teams at NOAH, ResoLUTiONs, Azalea and LBC with additional link work with ELFT and Luton Homelessness Partnership have underpinned the effectiveness of this approach.

Although Housing First clients are not obligated to become sober, engage with substance reliance services or discontinue drug use in order to continue in the program, one benefit often seen is that many in fact do start the recovery process.

Housing First has allowed people to put the effort they had used to stay alive on the streets towards areas of their life they have always wanted to work on. In one example, a client had an improvement in their self-care, a reduction of how much they were offending, and had an improvement in their overall motivation. Another client, a man in his late fifties who despite dealing with a lot of health-related issues as a result of a cancer diagnosis, was now engaging with their drug counsellor to work on reducing their drug usage and had drastically reduced his drinking to excess.

By providing this wrap-around support, Housing First will mean there will be both short-term and long-term savings to the public purse in Luton. A majority of clients engaged in the program had a reduction in how chaotic their lives were, a reduction in their criminal activity, and had started their long-term drug recovery. The effect of helping people on their drug recovery journeys will be the most promising area for long-term savings.

The help offered by NOAH through Housing First had also helped people to begin the process of processing the trauma they have experienced in their lives now that they were off the street. One heart-warming example was a woman in her thirties that was a survivor of sexual abuse as a child who had started writing poetry since moving into her house. She read and shared a poem with the team at NOAH that reflected on her history and experiences. The poem showed how she had begun to process her trauma in a way that was impactful and inspiring, and she said that she wanted to write a book one day about her experiences to help other people who may be going through similar situations. These examples show how clients can make some unexpected small steps that have big benefits to their self-esteem and purpose as well as helping them reflect and process their past.

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For further information on this topic, please contact:

Paul Prosser – Head of Welfare Services
T:  01582 728416


April 2021