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Threshold showcases its unique method of reducing homelessness in vulnerable women

09 October 2017

Professionals from various housing associations, homelessness charities and care providers gathered in Manchester to hear about how Threshold has been implementing a pioneering Housing First model to combat homelessness amongst vulnerable women.

Housing First is a model which has already proven successful in reducing homelessness in the United States, Finland, Canada and Denmark and for the last two years Threshold – part of the New Charter Group - has been piloting the model in Tameside, Oldham and Stockport. Their project is unique in that it focuses on a target group of vulnerable women with a history of offending, who are facing homelessness.

The pilot has been an unmitigated success, with the results being backed up by research by the University of York, who have been working closely with Threshold throughout the trial period. This has put them in the unique position to share their learnings and findings with other potential providers so that they might implement their own Housing First models. As Fay Selvan, New Charter Group’s Chair said in her introduction to the event, “This is about helping all women, not just the ones we work with.”


One of the highlights of the event was a talk from Linda Smith, a Threshold service user turned Peer Mentor for the Housing First project. She gave an impassioned speech about her journey, having lived a chaotic life full of abuse and substance misuse – typical of Threshold’s Housing First clientele – to turning her life around and becoming a qualified support worker and a mentor to vulnerable women. She is one of the keys to Threshold’s success, as the women in the Housing First programme are more likely to trust someone who has lived through similar experiences to them. In her own words, she is living proof that it works.

Later, the delegates heard that the key to any successful Housing First project, no matter who the subject group may be, is fidelity to Sam Tsemberis’ ‘Pathways to Housing’ principles. By offering clients choice of where they are housed and wrap around support that is not conditional on the clients being able to demonstrate housing readiness or abstinence from alcohol for example (as is the case with many homelessness projects) Threshold have seen phenomenal results.


Prof. Nicholas Please of the University of York, who has been studying Threshold’s Housing First project since it began, presented some of the findings to the group. For example, the project has achieved a 90% sustained tenancy rate amongst the 33 women that have been through the service. There has been zero rent arrears and no re-offending amongst the women – this from a group of women that have spent much of their lives in and out of prison.

The women that Threshold works with often have extremely chaotic and complex backgrounds. Nearly all of them have suffered some form of domestic abuse and most have drug and alcohol issues and mental health issues.  As such, their project has presented its support workers with a unique set of challenges when compared with other Housing First projects (most of which are centred upon the male population). So whilst they adhere to the principle of wrap around support, it is the persistence and consistency of this support that has yielded such positive results.  

These results are certainly impressive and Head of Threshold Anita Birchall stated that as the project was now funded for the next three years Threshold will continue to work closely with York University to produce a longer term study into their unique Housing First project.

In the meantime, the ‘how to guide’ for homeless women will soon be available for any providers and funders who may are interested in taking Threshold’s findings and implementing them in their own areas.