Housing First scheme in Thanet breaking the cycle of long-term rough sleeping

Sleeping rough (stock photo)

A pilot scheme in Thanet is providing homes for people with a long history of rough sleeping – with one man in accommodation after being caught in a cycle of homelessness for more than a decade.

The Housing First scheme, by Porchlight and Thanet District Council, began in Thanet in April. There are currently two properties, each housing one person. A third property is being sought.

Housing First is a scheme where people are moved into their own home and then start to address other issues they are facing such as mental ill health or drug or alcohol dependency.

It differs from other supported housing models because people do not have to prove they are ready for independent living. No conditions are placed on them, other than a willingness to engage with their support worker.

*Michael started using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism following a traumatic incident. Before being housed he had been in and out of prison for drug offences and was sleeping rough.

He is now getting emotional and practical support as part of Housing First, including help accessing alcohol and drug recovery from The Forward Trust.

Housing First provides long-term support and the scheme recognises that if people feel safe and included, they will, in their own time, start to recover and make positive choices about how they live their life.

It is relatively expensive compared to some other homelessness services because people supported by the scheme have very complex needs that can’t be quickly addressed. It requires skilled staff who can deliver intensive support and often takes a long time for people to recover and regain their independence.

However, for every £1 spent on the Housing First scheme, there is a saving (or social return) of £13.24.

This includes savings on reducing A&E visits, inpatient care and police interventions such as custody incidents and the difference in the level of crime each person was committing in relation to their drug and alcohol use before and during Housing First.

The Thanet scheme is jointly funded by Kent County Council (through its Kent Homeless Connect scheme), Porchlight and Thanet District Council.

The Porchlight Housing First support worker, who provides ongoing support to help people overcome the issues they are facing and regain independence, is funded Kent County Council.

Thanet District Council sources the properties and rent is paid via the client’s housing benefits. Porchlight pays for the costs of setting up a property so it feels like home and also covers the cost of food and bills until a client has regained their independence and is in the position to start paying for these themselves.

Porchlight spokesperson Chris Thomas said:  “Thanks to the Housing First scheme, some of the area’s most vulnerable people have the chance of a brighter future. We know that if they feel safe, supported and included, they will start to recover and make positive choices about how they live their life.

“We’ve seen people in in other Housing First schemes recover from years of homelessness and go on to build homes, establish healthy relationships with their families, and overcome mental and physical health issues. Now, vulnerable people in Thanet will have the same opportunities.”

Cllr Jill Bayford, Cabinet Member for Housing at Thanet District Council, added: “We are fully committed to delivering a housing first solution to rough sleepers in Thanet. Research has shown that this approach can successfully support people with the most complex support needs and we have already started to see successes within our project.”

Shadow member for housing Cllr Helen Whitehead added: “As the introduction of a Housing First model was of huge importance, I am incredibly glad to see delivery become established. To make a difference to our most vulnerable residents we have to provide support and an individualised approach; the work of our RISE team exemplifies this, and the Housing First approach continues and builds on these priorities.

“Housing do incredible work alongside many committed partners and organisations, and it is a credit to all involved.”

Porchlight has run the same scheme with Maidstone Borough Council and Golding Homes in Maidstone since December 2018. It has helped 10 people to maintain a tenancy, improve their health and regain their independence.

For the Housing First scheme in Thanet, Porchlight works with: Thanet council and the RISE homelessness service; Forward Trust; the NHS community mental health team and second-hand furniture stores who sometimes help set up people’s new homes.

Thanet council’s Housing Options Team has also been awarded £175,000 by the Kent Housing Group (KHG), which will help support the prevention of homelessness of private-rented sector tenants and homeowners who may be struggling to pay their rent and mortgages as a result of COVID-19.

If you are a landlord and believe that your tenant might require assistance, or if you are a homeowner and are struggling to pay your mortgage, contact the Housing Options team on 01843 577377 or email [email protected]


  1. Tbh its just another seasonal low tack sticky plaster but those applying the sticky plaster will get headline news with their own photos.

    Good for some.

    Its time rough sleeping/homeless and the associated issues were ancient history.

    Why not follow the ideas in current practice but improve on how one of our ex european neighbours deals with homeless, tourists, drugged up! drunk persons sleeping on beaches/benches.

    Been there done it, Those applying charity are the problem.

    Others will armchair desktop disagree and the sticky plaster becomes stretched and less sticky.

    Its all fixable, just needs can do people in charge !

  2. Why can’t local churches open their doors for the homeless in the evening and offer them shelter and warmth ?

    • Many do open their doors to the homeless and offer food, drink and support. Some happen to be in dire need themselves though without even heating. Don’t put the blame onto churches, it is the lack of housing available at an affordable rent. There have been too many rental properties turned into Airbnb locally where owners can get a high income without much layout as the local council hasn’t made regulations to control them.

      • Very few (if any) private landlords are going to take on a homeless person, they are unlikely to pass referencing, are more likely to have drink, drug , behavioural issues, landlords are landlords not soical workers , counsellors , addiction specialists etc.
        Much of the problem stems from the closure of many previous “low rent” HMO’s, that were most certainly not in good condition or offering ( by standards most people expect) good accomodation, but they did offer shelter to some of lifes more problematic and destructive.
        So faced with legislation that meant huge amounts needed to be spent refurbishing property for tenants that would’nt look after it in any way what soever and in the absence of rent payments from the council to cover the increased property and management costs , the tenants were evicted and the hmo’s closed.
        The legislation was most certainly needed but there was also a need to acknowledge the cost involved in offering good accomodation to the tenants they housed , in the absence of completing that circle many lost what little shelter they had.

  3. Just returned from the european country which has no rough sleepers, no homeless, no street begging, no vagrants, no street drug dealing, no human & animal excrement or puke on the streets.
    No broken street windows, vast reduction in shoplifting. The locals now love their area.

    No gimmick photo opportunities with the seasonal charity/councillors do gooders. (so they think)

    Its possible, just need people with the can do attitude !

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