A two-way trade

For much of the past decade, the direction of travel for new developments in homelessness seemed to be almost exclusively one way - from the US to Canada and to Europe. But there are now signs that this one-way trade in ideas is shifting.

For some time, the principal 'new idea' in homelessness was the 'Housing First' (HF) approach, developed originally in New York, and then increasingly rolled out through the US, into Canada, and then to Europe via 'early adopters' such as Finland.  An extensive pilot of HF in France completed and reported at the end of 2016, and is now being made national policy. In the UK, there is growing interest, and a specialist site, Housing First England, to promote and study best practice.

A parallel approach has developed, initially in the UK over many years, but was only given a name - the Psychologically Informed Environment, or 'PIE' - in 2010.  The PIE ‘framework’ had its origins in the context of best practice guidance for short-term supported accommodation units - what in the UK are called hostels, refuges or (for younger people) foyers. 

So far this idea, which has gained great traction in the UK in recent years, is nevertheless still relatively unknown in the US and Canada, and slowly growing in other parts of Europe. 

However, this may be starting to change. In 2017, FEANTSA published a special issue of trauma, which includes an article describing the PIEs approach. A conference in Paris heard a presentation on PIEs alongside others on Housing First, leading to further exchange visits; and there is a developing correspondence with a major HF proponent in Finland, which suggests that the PIEs core themes are very much in action there, although not described so far in the official literature.

Awareness in the US has grown with the publication in the Spring of 2018 of a new book, specifically on the subject of what the UK and the US have to learn from each other. Cross-cultural Dialogues on Homelessness: From Pretreatment Strategies to Psychologically Informed Environments  includes many chapters on innovative developments in the UK.

This  may the first time we have a real extended exploration of what we can learn from each other, between the US and the UK, that comes not from the abstractions of policy people and researchers, but from actual 'coalface' workers.  (And it really shows....)

But one of the view positives from the COVID era is that we are all now more familiar with streaming conversations. For some of the discussions that we are currently hosting on OIEs development, see : Forums


Further reading/viewing/listening

Cross-cultural Dialogues on Homelessness (PIElink page): HERE

Matt Bennett: Connecting paradigms: Talking trauma across the Atlantic with Jay Levy and Robin Johnson  (Episode 55) HERE


The cycles of practice-based learning HERE

'Divided by a common language'? - a US/UK vocabulary of homelessness terminology HERE

Housing First and PIEs in Europe (PIElink page) HERE

Housing First and PIEs in the US and the UK (PIElink Page)    HERE

American PIE? (PIElink page) HERE

Recovery Housing in the US and the UK  (PIElink page)  HERE

A European commentary on HUD's Recovery Housing policy briefing HERE

Housing First: addressing the community dimension  HERE

Core skills of engagement in Pretreatment, Trauma Informed Care and Psychologically Informed Environments HERE

Trauma and homelessness: FEANTSA special issue HERE

The ambiguities, limits and risks of Housing First from a European perspective:   HERE

See also the three monthly essays:

March 2017:  "PIEs, Housing First, and the New Social Psychiatry, Pt 1: Packed with Questions' HERE

April 2017:   'PIEs, Housing First, and the New Social Psychiatry, Pt 2: They do things differently there' HERE

May 2017:   'PIEs, Housing First, and the New Social Psychiatry, Pt 3: Red Herrings and Real Achievements' HERE

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