Housing First for Youth Service Delivery Model

Spotlight: Focus Ireland

The situation is Ireland is familiar — young people who are difficult to engage have high support needs to prevent housing loss.

Focus Ireland operates programs across the Republic of Ireland for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They noticed a gap in services for young people in Waterford. Many young people with complex needs who did not qualify for aftercare services, and those who had left an aftercare service were at risk of becoming homeless.

These young people lacked the opportunity to gain a period of stability. As a result they struggled with education, employment, or a developing a sense of community. This situation often lead to increased consumption, involvement in criminal behavior, or the development of poor mental health. For these vulnerable youth, traditional homeless services were not yielding positive results.

The HF4Y service provided stability through its principles of building trusting relationships with hard to reach young people.

The HF4Y service targets two main challenges: housing and social inclusion.

Housing

Access to housing in general in Ireland is at a crisis point. Vulnerable young people are dependent on social housing.  Within the Social Housing system waiting lists are extremely long and families get prioritized over single people. Accessing this alternative housing is difficult for young people.

Flexible secure tenancy is needed to support young vulnerable adults who generally have changing needs. A balance needs to be struck between allowing young people flexibility to attain housing in pursuit of employment or education while also ensuring secure tenures.

Social Inclusion and Community Integration

The available housing for the HF4Y service is scattered across the city. Neighbours often object to housing vulnerable youth nearby. Tenants experience prejudice and blame for any anti-social behaviour that occurs in the area. These are vulnerable young people who make mistakes; if they engage in anti-social behaviours like a house party, the neighbours are not patient while the tenants learn to live in a community setting, often for the first time.

The HF4Y service has worked to keep vulnerable youth out of homelessness, but it takes time for the young people to trust the model. Service users and staff need to be patient to see changes in the client’s lifestyle and making positive choices, for some behaviour can become more chaotic in the initial phases of the project.

The HF4Y service in Waterford uses a rolling housing model. This means that all programs have the option to be delivered without physically moving to a new house (e.g., transitional programs may become long term housing). In some instances, the housing may change, and the young people may be required to move. In this instance supports will follow the young person, and if another long-term tenancy cannot be attained, then a short-term tenancy will be sought in the meantime.

The service provider, Focus Ireland, is an approved Housing Body sanctioned by the local municipality. This allows the organization to purchase property specifically for vulnerable youth. As the owner of the properties, the service provider also has the flexibility to move tenancies between their stock as needed by the young people.

Learn more about Focus Ireland’s HF4Y program in this video.