Preston is at the forefront of getting people off the UK’s streets and into accommodation, thanks to The Foxton Centre’s Housing First scheme.Advertisement
During 2017, The Foxton provided accommodation for 50 people as a first step to getting individuals back into adequate housing. The scheme has already grown to include eight properties, with 24 tenants.
The Foxton Centre takes people straight from the street into their housing rather than stipulating conditions, as many other organisations do. There is a growing body of evidence internationally that this approach works, and it’s one that Preston is leading on in the UK, thanks to The Foxton’s work.
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Jeff Marsh, chief executive officer at The Foxton Centre, said, “Using this model, Finland has all but eradicated homelessness – they’ve gone from having 2,500 units of temporary accommodation in the 1990s, to around 50 emergency accommodation units instead.
“In the UK, homelessness has gone up 15%, 30% and 30% in each of last three years. I attended a national conference on Housing First where Sajid Javid, who at the time was Secretary of State for Housing, was singing the scheme’s praises.”
The government will be putting £28 million into Housing First projects in Liverpool, Manchester and the Midlands. Of course, that doesn’t help The Foxton, so instead they are aiming to raise funds themselves to purchase run down properties in Preston, and build a longer-term legacy of accommodation provision for homeless people.
Jeff continued, “The council has around 1,100 properties currently empty in the city, so we hope some of these can be used for social housing.
“Preston City Council are investing in the scheme, and Preston’s College is partnering with us to provide construction students to work on the properties. They will also offer a certificate to service users who get involved in the construction work.
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Jeff has lots of other plans for how The Foxton can grow and improve Housing First.
He said, “While drink and drug use goes down when we get people into our houses, mental health issues often come to the fore. We can get people into treatment but we also want to look at other approaches like helping our service users to fill their time with positive, constructive activities, and making better use of their lived experience.
“We recently tried this when one of our Housing First service users attended a meeting with a group of consultants. At first he was quite overawed, but he soon got into it and made some really relevant and positive contributions. He got such a lift to be listened to and valued.
“We already have some other volunteering options – for instance one of the Housing First service users works in the kitchen at The Foxton Centre, and we run Mend It Fix It Grow It sessions for everyone to take part in – but we’re looking at how we can increase mentoring, training and work opportunities.”
Take a look at the video below to see how a similar scheme, Latch (Leeds Action To Create Homes), is making a difference in Leeds.
What do you think of the Foxton’s work with homeless people? Let us know in the comments below.