HVO Querido Discus, Amsterdam
HVO Querido Discus is a Housing First service based in Amsterdam. The service follows the eight core principles of Housing First but places a lower emphasis on a recovery orientation. The Housing First service is run by an NGO and is fully funded by the Netherlands government. The focus is on homeless people who have both mental ill health and show problematic drug and alcohol use. The service is one of the oldest in Europe, having begun operations in 2005. Social housing is provided through cooperation with a housing corporation based in Amsterdam. HVO Querido Discus Housing First has expanded rapidly over the last decade. In 2005, there were three support officers and one project leader supporting 15 Housing First service users; by 2015 the service had 45 support officers, 4 team coordinators and two project leaders with a caseload of 275 Housing First service users. In 2015, HVO Querido Discus Housing First had the capacity to expand further. No limit was set on the size of this Housing First service. Support is organised around a weekly meeting which can take place at a Housing First service user’s home, in a public place or in the offices of HVO Querido Discus. It is also possible for Housing First service users to just make telephone contact, rather than physically meeting the Housing First staff.
Support is based around an intensive case-management model and includes:
₀ Help with housing sustainment and day-to-day living in their home
₀ Case-managing access to health, drug and alcohol and other services
₀ Support with social integration, including practical help in rebuilding links with family
₀ Help in dealing with the criminal justice system (when required)
The caseload of each support officer is between six and nine Housing First service users. Smaller caseloads are used when someone is working with very high-need service users. Team members can provide cover for each other when necessary. Support is described as fluid, varying and shifting according to the needs and wishes of each Housing First service user. High rates of success have been reported, with high rates of housing sustainment and improvements in mental health, drug use and social integration (though as in other Housing First services, these gains are not universal). High gains are reported in the physical health of Housing First service users. More information is available via: http://hvoquerido.nl (Dutch and English).
With Housing First, LIMOR’s support focuses on three related goals:
• supplying and maintaining housing;
• improving health and well-being;
• promoting social integration.
LIMOR’s approach revolves around autonomy. This means that the people supported always make their own choices as much as possible and participants are encouraged to work on better physical and psychological health, without obligation.
Every Housing First practice run by LIMOR works according to the eight core principles. Care and housing are separated from each other, so that even if support ends, the right to housing can remain guaranteed. At the same time, help can be continued if, for example, someone leaves his or her home.
LIMOR offers Housing First for adults in South Holland, Friesland, Groningen and Overijssel as well as a Housing First for Youth service in The Hague, combining the effective elements of Housing First with a youth-specific approach.
LIMOR has taken the initiative to translate the Housing First Guide into the Dutch context. The guide has been produced with support from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Housing First Europe Hub. The guide provides an introduction to Housing First, a description of the core principles and also describes how support and housing can be realised.
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.