Homelessness can be reduced using innovative ‘Housing First’ model

Posted on 11 October 2019

A housing model has proved effective in reducing homelessness across Europe but it needs more political support to increase its impact, says a new study led by the University of York.

Housing First offers housing as a starting point to help alleviate homelessness among people often with complex needs.

Unlike traditional approaches, Housing First offers housing as a starting point to help alleviate homelessness among people often with complex needs.

The Housing First in Europe study - released on World Homelessness Day - is the organisation’s first ever Europe-wide study of the Housing First model.

Systematic change

The study shows that while Housing First is a proven response to homelessness with good outcomes for people using the service, the spread of the approach is uneven across European countries. Political support for Housing First, including for its integration into local, regional, and national strategies is key to obtaining funding and resources.

Finland was the best example of how systematic change can drastically reduce homelessness. It was the only country to report Housing First as the main strategic response to homelessness at national level, and the only country in Europe that has a track record of reducing homelessness.

Of the 19 countries surveyed:

  •  eight countries reported strong political support.
  • only three countries reported that existing funding was reliable.
  • only two countries reported having sufficient funding.
  • 15 out of 16 countries where Housing First is already operational reported that there was not enough housing available.
  • Eight of these same 15 countries indicated that it was always difficult to find housing.

Complex needs

First author, Professor Nicholas Pleace, Director of the Centre for Housing Policy of the Department of Social Policy said: “This study shows the ways in which sharing ideas, information and experience across Europe has helped promote and develop more effective responses to long-term and repeated homelessness among people with high and complex needs at local, regional and national level.

“The Centre for Housing Policy has led research into the application, implementation and evaluation of Housing First in the UK for the last decade, alongside our work on Housing First with the Finnish and French governments and the Irish homelessness sector and in developing the Housing First Guide Europe. Our work shows the ways in which York's social research supports policy and strategy to help tackle social problems both domestically and internationally".

Samara Jones, Programme Coordinator for the Housing First Europe Hub said: “It’s clear from this report that the Housing First model can help to reduce homelessness - Finland’s experience is a good example of this - but sufficient, reliable funding and political support are crucial for services to be successfully implemented in the long-term.”

The full report can be read here

Explore more of our research.