As part of the European Year dedicated to Volunteering, the Housing Authority – an Authority within the Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family - is encouraging semi-independent living as it main objectives. The Housing Authority which operates through a standard of social consciousness, can have an important role in assisting vulnerable persons since housing is one of the fundamental needs. The Housing Authority is already supporting various NGOs that provide full residential care through assisting in refurbishment and/or installation of lifts. It also provides assistance to various organisations, persons suffering from mental health, persons suffering from domestic violence and persons with disability by allocating units for this purpose or giving rent subsidy or refurbishing grants for units rented for this scope. It is worth mentioning that during this current year, HA supported around 17 NGOs with an overall budget of over € 200,000. Please refer to our website for a more detailed information.
Now, the Housing Authority wants to take a step further and encourage the semi-independent living concept.
The main aim of this concept is to provide semi-independent environment to develop and sustain a person’s ability to live as independently as possible either in their own home or in accommodation with staff on site. This new type of housing with care allows residents to retain their privacy and independence within their own self-contained apartment but with access to necessary support to assist them to integrate better in the community. This concept is an excellent choice for those who are looking to become independent but are not ready to move out on their own. The integration of these persons in the community is a step forward ending the dependent life in residential care and a step closer towards fully independent living. Furthermore, with this initiative the limited space available in our shelter homes or institutions can be maximised and utilised by those persons that are unable to live independently rather than using residential care to support persons who are able to live independently if they are given the necessary support to make the transition. This will also be cost effective in operating our shelter homes as available funds will be targeted towards services according to the needs of individuals according to their stage in life, being dependent, semi-independent and independent.
Persons suffering from mental health, homeless, young people leaving care, adults or children victims of domestic violence and disabled persons might need supported housing for a variety of reasons. The reality of these reasons tends to have a detrimental effect on the lives of these persons which can thus lead to unemployment, poverty, housing exclusion and social exclusion. If these persons are able to live independently, they should not remain dependent on the state/care thus it is important to consider an integrated approach to their problems which can help them to move on and start their own life outside care. Nevertheless, the Housing Authority shall focus more on assistance related to semi-independent living to bridge the gap between residential care and living an independent life for different target groups. There seems to be a gap in this sector particularly for youth leaving care or youth at risk, and homeless persons. This shall be part of the Housing Authority objectives to enhance accessibility to adequate housing to vulnerable persons whilst securing their prospects for a better quality of life within the community.
A person-centred approach
A person-centred approach is what makes semi-independent housing successful. Service providers will be able to identify the needs of the service user and devise a plan to determine the length of transition required from their previous abode and the ‘move on’ phase to independent living. This assessment depends largely on their acquired skills, their disability and their behaviour. Some persons might be more challenging than others and therefore tailor made and comprehensive packages of support that respond to people’s needs, their aspirations and choices over time are necessary for these vulnerable persons to be able to manage the change from residential care to semi-independent living to fully independent living.
Such person centred approach is fundamental as service providers can identify the need for single flats (having own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom) or for shared housing (clients share a kitchen and a bathroom but have their own bedrooms) which can also fall within the scope of semi-independent living. Flat lets can be located in one block or spread in different localities.
Service users are expected to cook, clean and shop for themselves thus they might require independent living skills assistance, budgeting, health and life style, personal safety, emotional well being etc… but members of staff being a janitor living within the block of self contained flats or members of staff based on site (day and night) or make regular visits are expected to be available to help with practical matters during this transition phase.
Within this context, our areas of priorities are:
Youth at risk
Supportive housing for youth aging out of the institutional care or rehabilitation centres, homeless and youth at risk is an important element to assist these older adolescents and young adults to embark on a new independent life rather than ending up within the social system with a lifetime dependence on institutions. Youth who leave institutional care are faced with serious challenges as having grown accustomed to an insular group life; they suddenly have to face the adult work and adapt to live alone in the outside world. Through semi-independent living housing, these youth can all live in separate apartments let however mentors and support workers are vital in offering their assistance to help them integrate with others and develop networking and independent skills. Supervised housing sort of giving them a taste of independent living but through the 24hr support that they are given, they are better assisted to overcome day to day difficulties and embark on new challenges in their lives to help them manage better their independent life.
Homelessness is not a static phenomenon; it is a process affecting many vulnerable households at different points in their lives. Homelessness is usually associated with lack of suitable accommodation however there is more to it than the physical aspect; homeless persons tend to pass from various problems being social and psychological amongst others that need to be tackled a priori rather than trying to solve the problem only by giving them shelter.
Supportive housing induces hope for a better life to persons who due to various reasons they ended up without a home. Temporary and emergency accommodation shall be for a definite period of time as the name implies however permanent housing shall be made available for this to happen. Necessary support shall be provided to assist homeless persons in their transition to permanent housing ensuring that they can gain the necessary skills and competences to lead an independent life particularly focusing on how they can maintain their new accommodation, reducing the risk of eviction or repeat homelessness.
Semi-independent living provides an opportunity to these persons who do not need hospitalization a supportive setting. In the apartments, tenants have their own bedroom and a communal lounge and kitchen. Persons using the scheme are assisted and involved in the management of their homes in order to maintain their property and living environment at an adequate level. Ongoing support to facilitate the holistic integration in the community is very important.
Victims of domestic violence
These persons have to leave home because they can no longer tolerate the abusive situation; the abuse can be physical, emotional, financial and/or sexual. The women (most of the victims are women) shall be empowered to be able to decide which direction they want their lives and that of their children’s to take.
Supportive semi-independent housing can be a solution during the transition in the lives of these women and their children. Usually victims of domestic violence suffer in silence and they need to be brave enough to leave their home and secure a safer place to live. Thus offering these persons opportunities for supportive housing where they can secure accommodation whilst being given the necessary support and emotional and practical empowerment to enable them to rebuild their lives may encourage victims to come forward.
Second stage shelters already exist however supportive housing shall focus more on providing independent flat lets to women and their children to start building their life again independently from their abusive husband or partner. Victims of domestic violence are among the most vulnerable groups at risk of poverty and social exclusion thus supportive housing programmes can shed light to a hopeful new beginning, a life within a safe environment. This programme shall also serve as a tool to bring out children from abusive environments and the possibility to deal with their difficult life situation from when they are young.
Supportive semi-independent housing enables persons with a disability to live independently or with others, where the family home environment is not possible or available. Residents will gain skills in community living through individualised support plans ensuring the achievement of their optimum potential in enhancing their quality of life.
Persons with disability have different needs than other target vulnerable groups. Therefore supportive housing opportunities for this group shall be more specific according to the individual needs and disability. Supportive housing can be in the form of small and personalised apartments and houses or the home of the individual with a disability. Support is required to assist the person with disability to become more independent and when possible self-sufficient. The units shall be adaptable to the disability needs of the persons living under supportive housing to maximise their potential to live their own independent life.
The Housing Authority intents to launch this update policy in the coming weeks so as to provide a more holistic service to our community. In return to this, hopefully our society would be better and a more inclusive and humane society to live in.
Click here to download the policy document.