On Wednesday 2nd March, Peter McVerry Trust were honoured to attend the launch of Ireland’s first Housing First National Office by the Housing Agency.
Housing First aims to eliminate homelessness for people with a history of rough sleeping and long-term use of emergency homeless accommodation, who have complex needs around mental health, substance use, physical health, and other social and behavioural challenges. It provides direct access to permanent housing, together with intensive housing and health supports delivered mainly in the person’s home.
Peter McVerry Trust is Ireland’s largest provider of Housing First services.
The Housing First National Office is a new national directorate based at The Housing Agency, which – under the leadership of Rob Lowth – will be responsible for coordinating and driving a national, cross-Government approach to Housing First, as set out in the ‘Housing First National Implementation Plan, 2022-2026’. Working in partnership with local authorities, HSE, NGOs and Approved Housing Bodies the office will:
- Support regional and local delivery of the Housing First programme;
- Oversee performance on the achievement of agreed Housing First targets; and
- Evaluate the processes used in implementing Housing First in Ireland.
Ireland’s Housing First programme is based on the Pathways Housing First programme, which was developed in New York in 1992 by Dr. Sam Tsemberis.
Sam was a special guest at the launch of the new national office, alongside Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and National Drugs Strategy. Gary, a Peter McVerry Trust Housing First resident, also attended to speak about his experiences with Housing First supports.
Commenting at the launch, Minister O’Brien said:
“Housing First is one of the key responses in ending long-term homelessness among those with complex health and mental health needs. It provides the most vulnerable of our homeless population with a home for life as well as with key wraparound health and social supports. It is a key tool in our armoury in helping those who are at the sharpest edge of homelessness.
Under the Housing First National Implementation Plan 2018-2021 a target of 663 tenancies was set. By the end of 2021, this target was exceeded with 756 tenancies created. The new Implementation Plan 2022-2026 has an expanded target of 1,319 new tenancies over the lifetime of the Plan. I am determined that we will meet this target and we will seek any and all opportunities to exceed it.
The new Housing First National Office under the experienced leadership of Mr. Lowth will bring together all the relevant support services, ensuring there is greater cooperation and coordination in tackling homelessness. I want to wish him every success in his new role.”
Minister Feighan said:
“I strongly support the establishment of a Housing First National Office, to drive the achievement of the target of 1,300 tenancies. Housing First puts people who are long-term homeless at the centre of government policymaking and requires our public services to prioritise and respond in a person-centred way to those with complex health and social needs.
The Housing First national office builds on the excellent collaboration between the Department of Health, the HSE and the Department of Housing and local authorities. It is my intention that a dedicated Dept of Health/HSE person will be part of the national office.”
The launch of this new office marks an important milestone in the roll out of Housing First across Ireland. Peter McVerry Trust is looking forward to working with Rob Lowth and his team to support the most vulnerable in our society.