New manual for frontline workers involved in implementing Ireland’s Housing First programme

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A manual for frontline workers involved in implementing Ireland’s Housing First programme has been launched by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, and the Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD.

Housing First aims to eliminate homelessness for people with a history of rough sleeping and long-term use of emergency homeless accommodation, who have complex needs around substance use and mental health. It provides direct access to permanent housing, together with intensive housing and health supports – delivered mainly in the person’s new home.

Housing First was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Sam Tsemberis at Pathways, a housing organisation in the USA. The ‘Housing First Manual for Ireland’, launched today, was written by Dr. Tsemberis.

In Ireland, Housing First commenced in Dublin in 2014, following a successful pilot, and the programme has been rolled out nationally since 2018. Nine regional Housing First services – spanning every local authority and HSE Community Health Organisation area in the country – have responsibility for implementing the programme, with statutory agencies collaborating with NGOs on local service delivery.

The manual launched today is aimed at frontline workers in the local authorities, health services and NGOs that are implementing Housing First. Launching the manual, Minister Darragh O’Brien said: “This manual provides practical guidance for frontline workers on how Housing First can continue to be implemented successfully in Ireland.

“Its aim is to ensure we understand and adhere to the principles and practices of the international Housing First model. The manual also provides very practical advice and resources on issues such as the selection of housing for Housing First, the process for home visits, integrating housing and health supports, and ensuring that the service-user is at the centre of decision-making.”

Meeting National Targets for Housing First

Minister O’Brien reiterated the Government’s commitment to meet the targets set down in the national implementation plan for Housing First.

“We published a national implementation plan in 2018 – with a target of creating 663 additional Housing First tenancies by the end of 2021,” he said. “We remain on course to achieve this target within the timeframe of the plan. My Department is fully committed to resourcing the provision of housing for Housing First and I am pleased to note the current success rate of the programme through housing sustainment is over 85%.

“This new manual is another significant step forward for the rollout of the national Housing First programme.”

Collaboration Between Housing and Health Services

Minister of State Frank Feighan said: “The success of Housing First – in Ireland and elsewhere – is down to collaboration between housing and health services.

“Last July, the Minister for Health and I met with the Minister for Housing; and we agreed to work together to provide health supports for people who are homeless, especially those with mental health and addiction needs. In Budget 2021, we provided additional resources to the HSE for this purpose – including an allocation of over €1 million for health supports for 218 new tenancies under Housing First. 

“The manual launched today will be an important resource for health services staff and all those involved in implementing Housing First. It contains a wealth of information on the ethos of the Housing First model, alongside practical resources and techniques for frontline workers.

“Based on our experience in other countries, we know that – for Housing First to be successful – national programmes need to remain faithful to the principles and practices of the original model. This manual will help frontline workers in Ireland to do just that. It will build their understanding of the Housing First ethos and will guide them through the process of establishing and successfully rolling out Housing First in a range of local settings.”

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