Can Housing First help homeless people address their drug and alcohol use?

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A new project in Dundee gives homeless people unconditional homes and support. What impact has it had on the ‘drug death capital of Europe’?

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By Nye Jones, Editor and Features Writer at Addaction

Down the quiet backstreets of Dundee, a world away from the flashy new V&A museum, Angie opens the door to an unremarkable domestic scene. She’s lived in her flat for nearly three months and has decided it’s “time to put my stamp on it.” Her cousin is lending a helping hand repainting the living room while Angie talks of planning to create a feature wall in her bedroom. She cooks a mean Spaghetti Bolognese, although she won’t reveal her secret recipe, and is a soap connoisseur who can discuss the finer details of everything from Eastenders to Hollyoaks through to Casualty.

But not so long ago Angie’s life was very different. She grew up in care before spending years in and out of “toxic relationships”, sometimes sleeping rough when they broke down. At the start of 2019 she found herself living in one of Dundee’s homeless hostels. It was from there that her key worker referred her into the city’s new Housing First program.

The Housing First approach to tackling homeless was first developed in New York in the 1990s. It aims to support people with multiple complex needs such as repeated homelessness, mental and/or physical health issues and substance use. Traditionally, homeless people have to work their way through a ‘staircase’ of supported housing such as hostels until they prove they’re ready to manage a tenancy on their own. Instead, Housing First moves people straight into their own home and wraps intensive, personalised support around them. It’s based on the premise that everyone has a right to housing while the security and stability it provides helps people address long-term issues such as drug use.

Read the full article on Addaction’s Blog.

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