Turning Point Scotland’s operations manager Ian Irvine, Operations Manager at Turning Point Scotland, developed a Housing First pilot project in Glasgow. Now in its third year, the service provides mainstream social housing and 24/7 outreach support to individual who are homeless, aged 18 or over, and involved in drug and alcohol misuse.

Ian  is currently on a five week placement to visit seven Housing First services in Canada and the United States of America.

His trip is taking in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Washington and two services in New York to learn more about the support on offer and how it compares with other Housing First models.

Ian is there as part of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. The Trust award travelling fellowships to British citizens from all walks of life to travel overseas, to bring back knowledge and best practice for the benefit of others in their UK professions and communities.

Here is his thoughts on the final leg of the journey:

“That was Vancouver. A beautiful vibrant City that I’d love to visit again. Large homelessness  population estimate 4000 with majority of resources all in Downtown. Somewhat overwhelms and stigmatises that area which was in walking distance of where I was staying. Vancouver City Council prior to Winter Olympics of 2010 bought a number of run down Hotels in Downtown to ensure visitors didn’t stay there, modernised them and then gave  to NGOs to accommodate homeless people. RainBow City my hosts. Vancouver one of 6 Canadian cities funded by Central Government to develop a Pathways Housing First in Sept.

2009 to achieve housing stability and improved health and well-being for those homeless living with a serious mental illness. In Vancouver the focus has been on those who in addition have a substance addiction. Visited a range of services including Insite which provides 12 injecting booths with individuals bringing their own substance and injecting in a mirrored wall booth so that staff can observe. 600 injections each day with some using more than once. Detox and Transitional housing – Onsite – on floors above. Large heroin injecting population. As I said real issue is the massive volume of resources crammed into Downtown creating in essence a ghetto. From where I was living had to walk through the outskirts of Downtown to get to restaurants in an area known as Gastown. 100 s of homeless on streets in the evenings as weather was particularly good, warm and dry.”

Hastings (and Powell Street) are the heart of Downtown homelessness activity including bottle shop where as it say they buy old bottles and stalls on the street where items found in bins etc. are sold. Edge of one just visible at red car

   

This Tree has stood for years on this site and was deliberately built around given faith in it from American Indians. We’re not able to get entry to room as all occupied. All flats have full amenities -kitchen, bathroom etc. Another large family supported by Project Quest in HF service. Evidence here of real poverty.

       

Marking history of impact of previous attitudes to homeless American Indians.

 

 

Seattle, Traditional housing throughout the area from early 20th Century. There are across from the block of new flats I am staying in.

    

New York

“New York really the City that never sleeps and one of my favourite American cities. Given what has happened with Washington shutting down in past few weeks I got a real sense of frustration and despair in services of the political will in USA. The sense is of a Country where neither party has a policy or commitment to respond to single homelessness as the number of street homelessness increases. There is one particular sizeable response and another limited response. In the annual  Homelessness Survey in 2011 there was alarm and reaction created when they discovered that circa 70,000 Veterans were homeless. A major initiative has taken place to seek to eradicate this and funding is ensuring that responses are developed. Housing First is one response and in addition to developments in several cities, Pathways to Housing is working with the Veterans Association to train their staff to both understand the philosophy and develop housing first services.

I am told that In New York single homeless are between 16,000 and 18,000 with numbers increasing as no new funding is released. Both Pathways to Housing and Project Renewal through its In. homes Now programme continue to provide support in Housing First accommodation. Pathways to Housing are positively developing WRAP support to their clients and are developing peer support in a meaningful way.

The further issue in all of America is the dramatic increase in family homelessness.  A limited response is now developing and, for instance in terms of services I have visited, there is clear evidence of progress in Minneapolis and in New York , Project Renewal is developing a small Family Housing First service albeit on an abstinence basis.

Had a really good visit to ‘In Homes Now’ New York. They were one of the companies from my visit in 2009 where I got the sense of the philosophy and practical sense of Housing First so it was really good to meet Katie Bower and her Team again. They have increased their numbers and are now supporting families – although they have to be abstinent. The majority of their properties are in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn.”

Met Michael, Veteran, on shadow visit with Ros, Peer Counsellor. Michael has been in their Housing First service 4 years.  Pathways to Housing’s Peer Resource Centre has several garden plots used by service users.

   

Vido has been with ‘In Homes Now’ for 4 years also. Veteran now living in Upper Harlem but admits he destroyed his world using crack cocaine and alcoholism. Now committed to being clean. Robin has been in service 2/3 years. Still drinking but in moderation. Cat’s name is Octra.