Following on from a competitive tendering process, Westmeath County Council signed the Housing First Contract for the Midlands Region with Peter McVerry Trust.
The Chief Executive of Westmeath County Council, Pat Gallagher, in the presence of the Council’s Leas-Cathaoirleach, Cllr. John Shaw, formally signed the contract to deliver a Housing First Service across the four midland counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Longford and Laois, with the CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, Pat Doyle. Also present were members of the Housing Department of Westmeath County Council, staff from the HSE’s Social Inclusion Department and Community Alcohol and Drugs Service (CADS ), as well as key members of Peter McVerry Trust.
The Housing First Contract will be for three years, initially, and the tendered cost is almost €500,000 over this period. The funding for the Housing First Service emanates jointly from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the HSE. It should be noted that on top of the allocated central exchequer funding for the Housing First service, Peter McVerry Trust is providing further significant financial and human own resources, for this initiative.
The Housing First model, as outlined in the Housing First National Implementation Plan 2018-2021, ‘offers the provision of immediate, permanent and affordable housing to tackle homelessness, and then provides the appropriate wraparound housing and health supports, and connections to community-based supports, to ensure people maintain their housing and improve their overall health and well-being. This support is time unlimited and provided for as long as required’.
The Housing First principle does not require individuals to resolve the issues that contributed to them becoming homeless before being provided with housing, but rather stable housing is seen as a basis for recovery and reintegration.
It should be noted that the provision of a Housing First service, in every county across Ireland, is a crucial element of central Government’s key housing action plan, 'Rebuilding Ireland'. A key element of this action plan is Pillar 1: Address Homeless which focuses on the Government of Ireland’s explicit commitment to “strengthen our efforts and resources towards providing homeless people with a home following the housing-led, housing-first approach.”
The Midland Homeless Region provides a range of homeless services which include Supported Temporary Accommodation facilities (STAs ) run by various providers, a regional case-working service that focuses on tenancy sustainment and homeless resettlement, an Out-of-Hours help line, as well as Homeless HAP Place Finders operating across all four midland counties.
Funding for these services comes predominantly from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with regional Local Authority contributions, as well as from the HSE. Therefore, this new housing first service will complement a wide range of existing statutory, community and non-governmental personnel who work with homeless individuals and families in this region
Peter McVerry Trust bring a wealth of experience in Housing First, having operated an initial pilot project in Dublin with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE ), Dublin Simon, Stepping Stone Accommodation and Focus Ireland in 2014. From this initial project The Trust, alongside Focus Ireland, went on to be awarded the Housing First Regional Service in Dublin in 2014 culminating in being awarded the latest Housing First contract, in Dublin, in 2019.
Aside from being solely awarded the Housing First Service in Dublin last year, 2019 also saw Peter McVerry Trust successfully tender to carry out Housing First services in this, the Midland homeless region, as well as the Mid-East and the North-East homeless regions.