Housing First in the Netherlands
Housing First was started on a programme level in the Netherlands by HVO-Querido in 2006. Since then, several enthusiastic municipalities, NGOs and housing corporations in the country have started projects and pilot programmes. Today, Housing First is mostly used as an addition to the range of shelter options (often next to the staircase model).
Thanks to the positive approach to implementing Housing First, the Netherlands now has more than 10 years of experience using Housing First as a model. As a result, homelessness for a large group of long-term and / or repeatedly homeless people with high and complex needs has been ended in a sustainable manner.
Nowadays there is a growing awareness that the homelessness sector will not be transformed by organizing Housing First as an addition to existing facilities, and a more systemic approach is needed to end homelessness completely. To achieve this, there is a movement towards advocating towards systems change, whereby Housing First principles would become more integrated into the overall national system and form the basis of (government) policy.
Nationally, there is increasing homelessness and an increasing housing shortage. More and more people are becoming homeless, the shelters are at full occupancy, and the relapse into homelessness is high. The government is now working on a broad approach to reduce homelessness, with increasing recognition that the Housing First should be the leading approach.
The big question for Housing First in the Netherlands is: “To what extent will the government opt for managing homelessness or will it opt for a more effective and thus more economic approach to preventing and eliminating homelessness in the Netherlands?”
Housing First Nederland
Housing First Netherlands is a national federation of Housing First Organisations and advocates for Housing First practices, professionals, and Housing First in general.
Based on the pillars of knowledge sharing, advocacy, and research, Housing First Netherlands is working on a positive influence on politics and policy and on the development of Housing First practices and professionals. In our advocacy, Housing First Netherlands often refers to the Finnish example as the way to go.
Housing First Nederland is affiliated with the Valente Association (a national association of organisations working with the homeless) and is an associate of the Housing First Europe Hub. The team is always looking for national and international partnerships to further their mission of ending homelessness sustainably through Housing First.
Housing First Nederland is currently largely focused on advocacy particularly in the lead-up to the national elections in early 2021.
HVO Querido-Discus & Housing First HVO-Querido
Discus began its Housing First pilot program with 26 Houses in April 2006 with the goal of ending street homelessness, empowering people, respecting their choices, helping to modify harmful drug and alcohol use, and supporting them to participate in society again, in a way they choose to. Since then, more than 600 homeless people have been housed through the Discus programme.
From 2015 Housing First has become local policy in Amsterdam as the chosen model to support our clients, therefore different teams and target groups (HF-youth/HF-Psychiatry/HF Psychosocial ,HF-Families etc… within HVO-Querido joined the Housing first model
Early in 2019, the 1,000th Housing First home was created in Amsterdam.
The programme in practice
Discus starts the process by addressing an individual’s basic needs – a home, safety, and basic care – and then supports them to make decisions about how they wish to improve their lives. Clients are in control and have the power to make fundamental decisions, including who they want to work with and the type of support they wish to receive. This includes the location of their housing, activities, volunteering work, and the length, time and frequency of support sessions. With the client’s permission, Discus involves neighbours and family members in the process, as they can play a vital role in encouraging the client to rebuild their lives and participate in society as much as possible.
Discus believes having a secure home provides the foundation from which clients can work to overcome other challenges in their lives and achieve their goals. Through Discus, Housing First clients rent apartments provided by nine housing associations in Amsterdam. Clients are helped to maintain their home and offered other support, including psychological and social rehabilitation. Clients can decide for themselves how they wish to organise their lives, as long as they pay rent, accept support and do not act anti-socially.
At the start of the project, Discus housed people directly from the streets. Over the years the target group has expanded and they now house people from night shelters, 24-hour shelters and halfway houses. Clients are referred to Discus by De Veldtafel, a group of professionals from separate care organisations under the supervision of Amsterdam’s municipal health service, this is the actual structure for all HF projects within HVO-Querido.
The Discus approach is a tailormade approach. Each client is assessed in order to identify the right caseworker to support them. Discus believes the success of the programme depends on this crucial relationship, with the client having a say in the caseworker they are matched with. It currently employs 90 caseworkers and recruitment focuses on finding people with the right personality and behavioural characteristics, rather than technical or academic skillsets.
Caseworkers have caseloads between 6 and 9 clients.
Caseworkers follow a methodology created by Discus Housing First called ‘It-can-also-be-different’ it’s a total innovative approach that focuses 100% on recovery. This encourages a more creative approach to social work to achieve small successes. For example, when a client was not managing to live in a house, Discus worked with the municipality of Amsterdam to get a permit for him to live on a small boat. With this kind of adaptive support, many clients are able to overcome old negative patterns of behaviour. In addition, if a client feels their support programme is not working effectively, they can change it.
Housing First Expertise Center
HVO-Querido is supporting the implementation of the Housing First approach in other parts of the country through its professional training courses. Last year a Housing First expertise center was being created by HVO-Querido to offer trainings to care organizations. Discus is very active sharing best practices with several organizations in Europe as the Czech Republic, Spain, Macedonia, England, Scotland ,France, Sweden, Germany, Belgium. Etc..
More information is available via: http://hvoquerido.nl (Dutch and English).
In 2011, LIMOR started Housing First in The Hague. And after that we quickly started doing Housing First in other parts of the country. The experience on Housing First convinced LIMOR that ending homelessness starts with providing housing (and support). And that an “ordinary home” offers the best opportunity for normalisation, recovery and social integration.
LIMOR delivers support according to the core principles of Housing First. The support work focuses on three related goals:
- supplying and maintaining housing;
- improving health and well-being;
- promoting social integration.
At LIMOR, the difference is made by the warmth and courage of extremely involved and motivated professionals. LIMOR normalizes the mutual relationship between support worker and participant and builds on it. LIMOR’s approach is based on unconditional acceptance and trust. LIMOR believes that it is not the methodology, but the personal relationship between support worker and participant that determines the success of the process. Our decades of experience have proven that it pays off.
Also, LIMOR believes that support workers don’t have to fix people. We support people to help themselves. Moreover, it leaves behind the assumption that a support worker understands someone’s needs better than the person himself. We gave up the role of the expert. We support the participant to be his own leader. LIMOR’s vision is that autonomy is the starting point of recovery. Based on the conviction that people have the ability to find answers to their own questions and that our support should enable them to do so.
LIMOR offers Housing First in the provinces Zuid-Holland, Friesland, Groningen and Overijssel as well as a Housing First for Youth service in The Hague since 2018. By combining the effective elements of Housing First with a youth-specific approach, LIMOR can offer effective support to people in this vulnerable stage of life.
The results worldwide show; Housing First works for at least 8 out of 10 people. LIMOR also has a success rate of 85%, which is an amazing breakthrough in the sector.
Through Housing First, LIMOR is striving for a successful and sustainable end to homelessness. Therefor LIMOR, together with a few other organizations, is the driving force behind the national Housing First Netherlands platform. Collaboration is crucial to really make a change and realize an integrated approach throughout the Netherlands. United we can give the revolutionary movement of Housing First the impact it deserves. At this moment LIMOR provides the president of Housing First Nederland. By investing in the national Housing First network, LIMOR wants to lead the way!
LIMOR has taken the initiative to translate the Housing First Europe Guide into the Dutch context. The guide has been produced with support from the Ministry of Health, Valente Association and the Housing First Europe Hub. You can find it here; https://www.limor.nl/housing-first-gids
Assistance for homeless persons is regulated by the Social Support Act 2015 (Wmo 2015). Under section 1, subsection 1 of the Wmo 2015, community shelter services are defined as temporary shelter and counselling for persons who, due to one or more problems, have voluntarily left or been forced to leave their homes and are incapable of supporting themselves independently. Community shelter services are intended for people who are genuinely unable to hold their own. Pursuant to article 1.2.1 (also referred to as the nationwide access principle) the shelter has to be provided by the municipality that the homeless person turns to for help. The Act delegates responsibility for social support to the municipalities, as they are the best place to organise innovative forms of social support and develop individualised solutions. On the other hand, the nationwide access principle constitutes access to community shelter for those in need. Community shelter is one of the many forms of social support local governments are responsible for and must not be seen as a separate form of support.