Principles and pragmatism in PIEs and Housing First

Principles and pragmatism

Most current versions of Housing First - they do vary somewhat from one country to another - have stipulated a handful of core principles - sometimes known as the 'non-negotiables' - that must be adhered to for any service to call itself Housing First; and to claim the funding that is often attached to support HF models.   This was necessary for two main reasons.

Firstly, it gave a coherence to the approach that might otherwise have been lost, as services in different areas, geographies and jurisdictions began to adapt some of this approach to local circumstances, more pragmatically. Stipulating some core conditions aimed to safeguard against too much 'watering down' of the radicalism of the approach, and to ensure that any available 'top up' funding for HF pilots and on-going projects was not simply absorbed into the general pool of housing support costs.

Secondly, specifying core principles allowed the proponents of Housing First to develop a research and evidence base for the effectiveness of this approach, and for quantifiable results, which required tightly defined criteria for consistency and true comparability.

The success of this approach is evidenced by the remarkably good figures for the effectiveness of HF, where these strict criteria are applied. The weakness of this strategy was that many of the things that HF pilots did, to make it a success, could not be included in the model, as they were creative and pragmatic in their particular context. This makes it harder to generalise or to share and learn from what is effective, apart from those core principles.

By contrast, the PIE approach focusses on, and attempts to draw out precisely those pragmatic but fuzzy issues in the creativity and contextualisation of services that thew HF principles must necessarily exclude. It is customisability and creativity rather than consistency and fidelity that the PIEs framework has aimed to encourage.



Although Housing First is steeped in psychology - as we will explore in "Is Housing First itself a PIE approach? : HERE)  - the HF principles are often couched in the language of a right-based framework. This is in part because the maintenance or otherwise of a full tenancy, which is a legal matter, proved to be the most effective way to ground the evidence of effectiveness in a clear and factual proxy for success. (This is the pragmatism of research.)

As a rights-based discourse, it must then apply to all citizens; or all citizens in need. But the reality on the ground of severely restricted resources then requires a much stricter prioritisation as to how the resources are targeted and who is included. This will vary from country to country - even from region to region - as the overall level of resources varies.

The prioritisation and targeting will also vary somewhat, and the characteristics of those who fall through any one society's safety nets to end on the streets varies widely with the nature of those safety nets.  Nevertheless, the consistent thread is an emphasis on the most excluded and 'chronic'; and the evidence so far does seem to suggest that HF is highly effective for whatever user group it is targeted upon, irrespective of their more specific characteristics.

By contrast, the universalism in the PIE approach lies in the way that the PIE framework was designed to be applied in all contexts - rather than to all or to selected individuals.  Although it too has been developed and adopted mostly in homelessness and housing support for those with more complex needs, the ambition is to find - or create - a way of working that facilitates working links between services and moving on for individuals.



In Housing first, prescriptiveness and permissiveness are present and combined, but in different levels in the programme overall.  Within each individual's home and life,  the rule for tenants in an HF project is that there shall be no more rules; that is, the individual tenant has the same rights as any other, including the right to refuse any support that is offered. Within their home, they have the permission to do as they please - within the law, and within the terms of the lease.

By contrast, the core principles of HF - the non-negotiables - apply in the way services on the ground are provided. To qualify as a HF service at all, these principles must be adhered to. Where governments have adopted Housing First as their primary direction and policy framework for services, that same prescriptiveness operates at policy level, and is often written into the funding of services.

In the PIE approach, prescriptiveness is avoided as far as possible.  Even the key framework that has been developed, known as PIEs 2.0, does not talk of 'principles' of PIEs, but instead prefers to talk of 'themes' and 'practice elements'. In fact, it has been said that there is only one 'principle' behind PIEs: decide for yourselves what to do.

The emphasis in PIEs is instead ion encouragement and diversity, and creating tools such as the Pizazz that allow services to find their own ways to develop and enhance, whatever the constraints and opportunities in their particular context. As a self assessment process, the Pizazz suggests horizontal accountability - in the form of peer review, as the final stage of a service's assessment. That is, services should judge themselves and be judged by how they are seen by others, rather than by any external authority and accreditation; and this make room for a far more flexible application of any criteria for success.


Opposites attract?

From this discussion it might seem that Housing First as policy and the PIEs approach in practice are incompatible. Experience in the UK, however, suggests otherwise. Here at least it seems that the PIE approach and framework fills in the gaps where the HF principles do not go; they are complementary. Furthermore, the PIE approach helps to locate HF practice within a wider and more comprehensive account of how all services can make progress, working together.

For a more detailed account of how the PIE and HF approaches first developed, seemed to diverge, and are now reconciled, see 'HF and PIEs - where parallel lines meet' : (HERE).

For current hopes to expand and clarify further the scope in the PIE framework and the Pizazz to enhance HF practice, see 'PIEs, Housing First, PIEs and the Pizazz' : (HERE)


Links and background

PIElink pages on Housing First and PIEs

Housing First and PIEs - how do they work together? : HERE

Is Housing First itself a PIE approach? : HERE

(Balancing) principles and pragmatism in PIEs and HF : HERE

Housing First and PIEs - where parallel lines meet? : HERE

Housing First, PIEs and the Pizazz (Special Interest Group) : HERE

Housing models, Housing First and PIEs in the US and the UK : HERE

Housing First and PIEs in Europe : HERE

Housing First in the 'new world' : HERE



Other related PIElink pages

'Recovery Housing' in the US and the UK : HERE

PIEs, 'scattered site' and 'networked' housing : HERE

Outreach, in-reach and pathways : HERE

A single framework : HERE

PIE Accreditation: HERE


Library items

Recovery Housing Policy Briefing HERE

A US commentary on HUD's Recovery Housing Policy brief : HERE

A European commentary on HUD's Recovery Housing Policy :  HERE

Intersections between the domestic violence and homelessness programs :  HERE

The characteristics of successful supported housing projects :  HERE

"Sobriety housing and peer support' : (podcast)

Recovery is for all: Hope Agency and Opportunity in Psychiatry : HERE

Packed with questions : HERE