Housing First in the Netherlands
Housing First was started on a programme level in the Netherlands by HVO-Querido in 2006 . After that, several enthusiastic municipalities, NGO’s and housing corporations in the country started projects and pilots. Today, Housing First is mostly used as an addition to the range of shelter options (often next to the staircase model). 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 by organizing Housing First as an addition to existing facilities, the sector will not be transformed, and homelessness will not be ended completely. To achieve this, Housing First principles must instead become more integrated into the 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 jammed, 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 (you could say our national FEANTSA) and is an associate with the Housing First Europe Hub. And aside, we are always looking for national and international partnerships in our mission to end homelessness sustainably through Housing First.
Housing First Netherlands 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 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).
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.