Following the homelessness round table held at West Berkshire Council earlier this month, Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, was present at the launch in Westminster last week of a new report on tackling homelessness. Housing First outlines an ambitious new approach to ending rough sleeping.

Produced by the independent think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, co-sponsored by Richard, it urges the Government to consider a major shake-up of its housing policy to end rough sleeping permanently. Based on the Finnish model, Housing First addresses the problem by providing individuals with a stable independent home, which is combined with personalised support to gain access to mental health services, drug and alcohol support, in addition to training for employment when and if they are ready.

Richard was one of many MPs who supported the launch. He commented, ‘Rough sleeping costs the Government £1bn every year in health, drug rehabilitation and criminal justice spending. The plan to introduce Housing First in the UK would cost the Government £110 million a year, but would pay for itself within three years.

‘As former rough sleeper, Wayne Craft, said at the launch, “You don’t start a house by building a roof. Having a home gave me a base…The best thing that ever happened to me was a post code.”

‘I am delighted that Sajid Javid, the Minister with responsibility for homelessness, has confirmed he is interested in adopting a Housing First programme in the UK. This tallies in many ways with the MEAM approach that we were discussing at the round table at West Berkshire Council and could see a similar model put in place for those people with multiple and complex needs here in Newbury.’