Housing First and PIEs 

The term "Housing First" (often abbreviated to "HF") describes an approach developed initially in the United States, which took the view that it was more effective to fast-track re-house homeless people with multiple problems such as substance abuse, trauma and mental illness, and then offer them treatment in and from their own homes, but on a purely voluntarist basis.

In contrast to the US, where HF has been seen as incompatible with, even antagonistic towards, ‘transitional housing’, Housing First England, for example, is taking a different stance, and sees Housing First as one of a range of positive approaches – one tool in the tool kit for meeting complex needs.   

This difference undoubtedly reflects the far greater investment over several decades in the UK in improving the quality of “hostels” (NB: the UK term for “transitional housing”), both in terms of overall size of homelessness resettlement units, their physical condition (via, for example, the Places for Change programme) and, more recently, the psycho-social environment – currently expressed in the language of PIEs.

Staircases, Elevators and Cycles of Change by Johnsen & Texeria was one of the earliest to question the simple applicability of US-model HF to the UK context (and also to inquire about the particular needs of particular sections of 'the' homeless population. 

Here, 'pretreatment' is seen as the effective skill set for outreach work in Housing First - or any other programme with excluded and marginalised individuals. For details and examples, and further links see the section on this site devoted to Pretreatment.   For a preliminary analysis of the links between Housing First, PIEs, TIC, pretreatment and system change approaches, see Principles and practice in the psychology of homelessness, (draft) Robin Johnson

Housing First and 'permanent supported housing"

In the US and Canada, different model of HF are nevertheless emerging, and especially different models of permanent supported housing (PSH), which is the accommodation element in to HF’s rapid housing placement and support philosophy.  In particular, many areas are developing "congregated care sites" partly for reasons of costs (of support staff), and partly for concerns at the risks of loneliness and increased vulnerability for those housed alone, that are now being identified as a worrying problem for such provision in the US. (See the page on "PIEs,  'scattered site' and 'networked' housing"  HERE for a discussion of such issues).

But in the UK, permanent supported housing tends still to be seen as meaning individual, isolated tenancies (in the US and Canada, “scattered site PSH”), and 'congregated care sites are found primarily in our 'hostels'.    It would appear, then, that for the moment, we have an odd contrast. The PIE framework is more readily applicable in PSH in the US, and more applied in transitional housing in the UK.

This is in part a reflection of the short-termism – typically a maximum of 2 years - that has characterized “housing related support” in the UK, ever since the expansion of support services under the Supporting People programme.  This severely limits the extent of permanent support in housing, under the homelessness service umbrella, and now requires the proponents of Housing First to seek new funding partnerships for extended support episodes. These are currently proving as difficult to establish in the UK as they are in the US.

NB: Such short-termism in housing related support services' funding may also help to explain why the belief persists that being or becoming a PIE means having a psychologist to ‘do’ the informing. A trained psychologist is an expensive resource that must be targeted on the more immediate transitions, and in the UK, this more intensive resettlement work has mainly been offered in hostels.

(See the training video, “Does it take a psychologist to make a PIE?”, for a critique of this view).

Further reading

(See the Housing First in the US pages  for more details on developments there.)

Housing First England is the natural home for HF development in England; and has many links to news and project reports.

Staircases, Elevators and Cycles of Change Johnsen & Texeria

Principles and practice in the psychology of homelessness, (draft) Robin Johnson

Video & audio

Research, impact and community; a discussion on Housing First developments in the UK a discussion with Glasgow Housing Network

 “Does it take a psychologist to make a PIE?” (NB: cartoon version) for a critique of the assumption that it does.

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