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Housing Minister visits UK’s first ever Housing First for Youth project

Mr Stewart visits project in West Lothian to learn more about pioneering initiative developed by Almond Housing Association in partnership with the Rock Trust.

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Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning visits UK’s first ever Housing First for Youth project

Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning recently visited the Housing First for Youth project in West Lothian to learn more about this pioneering initiative developed by Almond Housing Association in partnership with the Rock Trust.

In 2017, Edinburgh-based youth homelessness charity, Rock Trust, and social landlord Almond Housing Association, launched the UK’s first ever Housing First for Youth project, joining forces to fight growing youth homelessness in West Lothian.

The two-year pilot places vulnerable young care leavers into permanent housing. The innovative approach differs from traditional routes to permanent housing as individuals are not passed through stages of temporary accommodation prior to being placed in their own home. By providing tenancies and extensive support to care leavers with indicators of complex need, the goal is to help these young individuals by setting them on the right path to navigate adulthood.

During his visit, the minister met with representatives for Almond Housing Association and the Rock Trust, as well as the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS), in Almond Housing Association’s offices in Livingston. Mr Stewart also spent time with one of the care leavers who had recently taken up a tenancy as part of the Housing First for Youth initiative, hearing first-hand the real difference the programme was making.

The Housing Minister praised the innovative project and its results so far, urging for more programmes for young people to be developed in future as part of Scotland’s efforts to reduce youth homelessness.

Mr Stewart said: “We know that homelessness is often the fault of systems, and that’s especially true for young people who experience homelessness after living in care, or after suffering adverse experiences in early life.  

“We want to ensure that no one becomes homeless and, if they do, they are fully supported. That’s why I welcome the important work of the Rock Trust and Almond Housing Association in tackling and preventing homelessness for young people and those leaving care, in particular. This project is an excellent example of good partnership working providing invaluable support.”

The Housing First model has already proven its ability and effectiveness in targeting homelessness in over 100 projects across the world in the US, the UK, and Denmark. In Scotland, the first young person to take part in the programme moved into their new home at the end of September in 2017, and, today, a total of seven young people are tenants through Housing First for Youth.

The Housing First tenancies are fully furnished, and the young people are provided with intensive ‘whatever it takes’ support. This is the first project of its kind in the UK and will be independently evaluated by the University of York.

Almond Housing Association’s Chief Executive, George Webster, added: “We are delighted to work in partnership with Rock Trust in this exciting and innovative project. By working together, we are giving these young people a real chance to settle into a new way of life where they can enjoy the opportunities and advantages that having their own place to call home provides.

“It is our hope that this model will be replicated across the country and provide an additional way of helping young people to enjoy the benefits of a place to call home.”

Kate Polson, Chief Executive of Rock Trust, said: “For a young person leaving care, entering yet another temporary accommodation arrangement can present a traumatic and uncertain set of circumstances which contribute to a reduced quality of life. The Rock Trust project will provide a stable living environment which supports these young people as they begin to build their independence.”