Housing First: a new social psychiatry?

NB: Please note, this page is being reconstructed. The current text refers to a workshop that was planned but did not then take place. Instead, the main content of this presentation will appear as a chapter in a forthcoming book (Editors, Jay Levy and Robin Johnson) on Transatlantic Dialogues. If this is an area of interest of yours, please bear with us if for a period this page seems a tad garbled. It is.


Horizon scanning for community mental health:

In April 2016, the PIELink's editor, Robin Johnson, was travelling in the United States; and whilst there, visiting a wide range of homelessness and inclusion health projects, to explore how Housing First, Trauma Informed Care, and Psychologically Informed Environments might ‘fit together’ – if at all.  

Housing First is often presented as primarily a rights-based approach to housing. Despite the evident presence of much psychology, and of psychologists, in the creation of the first Housing First programmes, the role of social workers in developing contemporary practice in the US may have been under-stated. Similarly the wider implications for mental health care, both in the US and the UK, are largely unexplored.

Relating contemporary developments to both social work, and the social psychiatry practice that gave rise to the term 'a psychologically informed environment', this workshop will present Housing First, and its implications if adopted in the UK, in a very different light from most currently available accounts.

The workshop takes place in Central London; but if there is sufficient interest, a video link will be arranged, and opportunities for those who are not in easy reach of the capital to join the discussion virtually.


What is 'Housing First'?   :     For a quick introduction to Housing First, both as it has developed across the Atlantic, and as it is evolving here is the UK, see the ages on this site dedicated to the subject: "Housing First and PIEs in the US" (coming next) and 'Housing First and PIEs in the UK'.

What is 'social psychiatry'?   :    Social psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that regards social relationships as being central to treatment and recovery.  As an approach, social psychiatry is concerned with changing the ways that institutions work, in order to foster more constructive relationships there; many social psychiatry approaches see this as the principal aim, or 'active ingredient' of the service.

What is meant here by 'community mental health'?  :    Community mental health can often have two meanings. It can mean mental health IN the community; or it can mean mental health THROUGH community. Here, we intend both meanings. The common meaning of mental health services provided IN the community typically excludes consideration of the valuable support and even (non-clinical) treatment provided by agencies that do not call themselves mental health services.  Mental health through community lies at the heart of social psychiatry.




Event description


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The suggestion that the best of homelessness services in the UK could be described as “psychologically informed environments’ – ‘PIEs’ – arose, at least in part, from work being done to explore the place of social psychiatry in social policy, for the 21st Century.

What light then can a social psychiatry perspective shed on some of the still newer developments in homelessness policy and practice, such as the Housing First movement?

Robin Johnson – best known in homelessness circles as the person who first coined the term PIE – returns from a study trip to the US, and will be presenting new material, including video and podcast recordings, on contemporary developments in Housing First practice.

Robin will illustrate the thesis that innovations in the name of Housing First, and also some lying outside it, might be said to echo the very earliest developments of social psychiatry, as well as some very contemporary thinking on inclusion, empowerment, and the need for community.

This workshop will be of interest to social scientists and educators, as well as to senior managers, strategy and policy staff in social housing and homelessness, in mental health and local authorities, social work, public health, commissioning and training.

It is a working example of the ambition to bring practice and theory, research and policy closer together.


For more info and background, including the pricing policy for the workshop, see the section on ‘Housing First – a new social psychiatry?’ in the ‘Transatlantic dialogues’ section of the PIElink – www.pielink.net.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016 from 14:00 to 17:00 (BST) - Add to Calendar


The Basement Room, Soho Centre for Health and Care, 1 Frith Street, London W1D 3HZ - View Map