A two-way conversation

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

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 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. 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 other parts of Europe. 

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. There has been some discussion recently over whether PIEs and HF should be seen as complementary, or as alternatives, in that the PIE framework can be applied as way to improve both shelter and recovery housing care, whereas proponents of HF in the US apparently see no prospect of improvement in shelter care, and only a very limited role for recovery housing. 

The PIE framework however applies equally well both to short-term/transitional/recovery housing and to medium- or long-term/permanent supported housing, and supplies a language for holistic care and service improvement that both had previously lacked. 

Two further US approaches nevertheless are very clearly aligned with the PIE framework – ‘Trauma Informed Care’ (or TIC), and ‘Pretreatment’; and there are therefore specialist pages on this site devoted to each. There is also a short summary of the connections between PIEs and TIC, produced by HomelessLink - a membership organisation for all homelessness sector services in England - and a more in-depth exploration between PIEs, TIC and Pretreatment, as 'core skills in engagement work'.