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.

Over 1000 applications were received by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, of which 125 were awarded between 4 to 8 week placements. Fellows receive a travel grant to cover return and internal travelling, daily living and insurance within the countries visited.

Ian is sending regular updates from his travels.

He visited Toronto, Ontario, in the east of Canada and the country’s largest city and not far from the US border.

Ian said:

“A very full and interesting week in Toronto an affluent and well resourced city which seems committed to both addressing their homelessness issues and assisting those who are marginalised.

Good links and networks have been developed between services with most of day care services provided (like Glasgow) by Christian organisations. Native Canadians prefer and are known as Aboriginal community and Toronto has an estimated 70,000 Aboriginal people which constitutes the largest reserve of Aboriginal people in the country.



Next, Ian visited Calgary in Alberta, towards the west of Canada.

“Calgary Pathways Housing First was primarily positive – I was out ‘shadowing’ a worker help a service user settle into his own flat.

Much of that was impressive – in a good area and walking distance of his parents, furniture supplied by Pathways and they provide new tenants with $200 for first purchase of food etc.

The individual has profound mental health issues but was well motivated and was clearly making proper use of his medication.”



“I attended a supported residential unit for those not making it on their own but happy to be in a communal unit although like USA rooms are not en-suite and toilets/bathrooms are gender communal.

I spent an hour in the afternoon sharing their experiences.”


Ian also visited the Alex Organisation:

“I visited 3 parts of this overarching agency. Their primary service – Pathways is replica of New York although they would argue they have developed unique Canadian aspects.  Pathways Assertive Community Treatment Team is tasked to end homelessness for the chronically mentally ill.


Dual diagnoses for many with harm reduction primarily alcohol, no heroin and some crack cocaine. Service users are termed clients with ACT team including psychiatrists and mental health. Trained staff are known as Clinicians. Given they are based out of a medical service sensed that they also used a medical as opposed social support methodology. They are undoubtedly successful.

Second service – Homebase – has experienced difficulties – they provide an intensive care management system to clients with dual diagnoses of mental health and addiction. Reviewing their methods given high failure rate – over 50%.

Third service Abbeydale is a 20 place residential unit recently opened for those for those who would not cope on their own.”