Bridging the Gap between Treatment and Housing
Following the recent release of the report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee into homelessness, Phoenix's Director of Marketing and Innovation James Armstrong discusses the findings.
We welcome the recent DCLG report on homelessness, it is a wide ranging report that highlights the broad range of factors that explain rising homelessness, from the shortage of social housing to the impact of welfare reforms. As an organisation that provides for people with multiple and complex needs we especially welcome the recommendations for more mental health support, support for children in care and women who have been victims of domestic violence, and the call for a renewed cross departmental government strategy.
As both a specialist housing provider and substance misuse provider we can see, from our unique perspective, that for any new strategy to be effecive for our service users it must help bridge the gap between substance misuse treatment and housing.
Whilst substance misuse is not an overt feature of the report those that work in the sector will know the link between substance misuse and homelessness is well established and recognise it in their everyday work. 41% of homeless people use drugs or are in treatment for drug use.
Many of the issues the report references are interconnected and the report rightly calls for a coordinated approach to meeting multiple needs. Our own service user analysis shows us that on average 23% of our service users have been in care, 31% of people in our prison services, compared to less than 1% of the UK population. Of service users who have been in care 20% reported that their children have also been in care.
What's more 51% of services users experience mental ill health, stating mental ill health either as a cause of, or a result of, substance misuse. This figure rises to 74% amongst young people.
Our own domestic violence work demonstrates just how often substance misuse is a contributing factor. 61% of our service users report that addiction negatively affects their relationships.
Any new homelessness strategy must therefore help bridge the gap between substance misuse treatment, associated complex issues, and housing.
In 2015 a quarter of opiate users entered treatment with unstable housing that risks their recovery, due to the range of factors the homeless inquiry report highlights this isn't a problem that goes away once people get help. 6 months later 68% of those people are still struggling to maintain recovery without stable housing.
Addressing the substance misuse/housing gap has been a particular strategic focus for Phoenix over the last 18 months and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. We believe addressing this issue has the potential to significantly improve outcomes in substance misuse treatment and all the associated areas of complex need. As we continue to develop our recovery-orientated housing provision we are meeting organisations we wouldn't normally interact with and forming new partnerships around a common purpose. We approach the issue from different angles using different terminology and philosophies and although this is an issue of great complexity for all of us, at its essence sits a simple truth. Demonstrated by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs but understood implicitly by all of us, we know that everyone needs shelter, a place of safety and stability, to provide a foundation to progress positively in life. Having a home is at the heart of long term recovery.