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2.7. Person-Centred Planning

Housing First services use person-centred planning, which essentially involves organising support and treatment around an individual and their needs((In Europe, the term ‘person-centred planning’ can be used to refer to a system for helping someone manage all aspects of their life. This is similar to, but not identical to what is meant by person-centred planning in a Housing First service. This focus reflects the emphasis on choice and control for service users. It can be summarised as Housing First adapting to and organising itself to service users, rather than expecting someone to adjust and adapt themselves to the Housing First service.

Some homelessness services expect someone to follow a set path, using a fixed range of services which always work in the same way with everyone. Housing First encourages individuals towards recovery, but is designed to enable them to build their own path, using the particular mix of services that suits them.

Everyone using a Housing First service is encouraged and supported to choose the kind of life they want to live. Choice and control play an important part in this, with Housing First service users making real decisions about the kinds of support and treatment they wish to receive. Person-centred planning within Housing First centres on understanding:

  • All aspects of the life that someone wishes to live, i.e. things that are worthwhile, rewarding and which enhance their well-being and their chances for happiness. This extends beyond ensuring that housing is suitable and the correct range of treatment and support is in place.
  • The needs someone using Housing First may have around social integration. Social integration includes things such as good social supports (friends and/or family and/or a partner), participation in civic life (being part of their neighbourhood and society, not isolated from it) and contributing to society, e.g. through volunteering, paid work, or other productive activity. Good social integration can enhance health and well-being by positively enhancing self-esteem((Cohen, S. and Wills, T. (1985) Stress, Social Support and the Buffering Hypothesis Psychological Bulletin, 98, pp. 310-357)).
  • The range of support offered by person-centred planning might include: help with running and maintaining a home; practical skills like cookery, budgeting, shopping and managing bills; debt and money advice and support with decoration and furnishing. In the area of social support, a person-centred plan might concern itself with establishing or re-establishing friendships and positive family relationships. Housing First might also, as regards social integration, encourage and support entry into education, training, arts-based activities, volunteering, paid work and community participation. Finally, with regard to health and well-being, a person-centred plan would encourage and support Housing First service users to engage with treatment.

Housing First is concerned with the human rights and human needs of homeless people, their right to housing and their right to a reasonable quality of life. Housing First is not delivering a real answer to homelessness if it merely ‘warehouses’ homeless people with high support needs in housing and maintains them with support services. Flexible, personalised support is essential. Person-centred planning should have several features:

  • Ensuring a Housing First service user is at the centre of any decisions that may change their life.
  • Understanding what each person using Housing First wants from life, how they wish to live and what they wish to do. This will involve what they want in terms of relationships, their place in society and how they wish to spend their time.
  • Housing First staff working with people using Housing First services to ensure that what they want from life, their quality of life, managing risks to their health, protecting their well-being and sustaining their exit from homelessness, is at the centre of what Housing First does.
  • Person-centred planning can mean that someone using Housing First pursues priorities that are not those which a Housing First service provider might think are the best option for them. Ultimately, Housing First can encourage and support homeless people towards recovery, but it cannot insist that they take a specific direction (see 2.6).