Working together to end homelessness
Rough sleeping
Housing First
Commitment to Refer


Housing homeless and vulnerable people has always been a key part of what the housing association sector does. So has support provision. The history of housing associations highlights that many were founded with a clear aim of helping to tackle rising homelessness. Today, housing associations play an important role in ending homelessness, whether they are specialist organisations or general needs providers.

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Homelessness services offered by housing associations

Across the country, housing associations deliver a wide range of services to help prevent and solve homelessness.

These include:

  • Preventing homelessness through making organisational commitments and offering tenancy sustainment support.
  • Offering a range of supported housing including hostels, refuges, and homes for people with multiple and complex needs, including Housing First.
  • Partnering with local authorities and others to provide housing and support.
  • Allocating supported housing and general needs housing to people who are homeless.
  • Since 2016 Homes for Cathy - a group of housing associations that came together to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home - have been highlighting the continued needs of homeless people.

Get involved

Our supported housing and homelessness network meet quarterly and is open to all our members.

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Our work

The NHF supports its members in this work through:

  • Working with our members as part of our Homelessness Steering Group to develop policy asks.
  • Supporting government initiatives on homelessness, including the Rough Sleeping Initiative.
  • Showcasing the work of our supported housing members through campaigns including Starts at Home Day.
  • Encouraging partnership working to ensure housing associations continue to do all they can to tackle homelessness.
  • Campaigning to secure funding for long-term support for those who need it to settle into and thrive in their tenancy.

Case studies

We’ve been collecting best practice examples of homelessness prevention and accommodation from around the sector. 

Find out more

Our priorities for change

Despite the positive achievements of 2020, the housing and homelessness crisis continues. The ‘Everyone In’ initiative during the coronavirus pandemic helped to bring the total number of rough sleepers on a ‘single night’ down by 37% in 2020. The number, however, remains 52% higher than it was a decade ago. In September 2021, there were 96,060 households in temporary accommodation,  This was a slight fall on the number a year previously, but represented part of a long-term increase. There are also 121,680 homeless children living in temporary accommodation. This is almost unchanged on September 2020, at a historically high level.

Our recent People in housing need report also showed that there remain around 1.6 million people on the social housing waiting list 293,000 children are living in homes that are unsuitable for their needs or health requirements, while 283,000 are living with their families in other people’s homes – effectively homeless – as their families cannot afford a home of their own.

We have been calling for:

  • A greater supply of housing to meet need and are now working to support delivery under the Affordable Homes Programme.
  • To end homelessness, adequate investment is needed to allow housing associations to build social rent homes.
  • An adequate welfare system, secure, long-term funding for supported housing and support services, including homelessness prevention.
  • A focus on all forms of homelessness. Partnership working with housing associations across local government, health and the voluntary sector will be key to success.

Supporting the Homelessness Reduction Act

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places new duties on local authorities to help prevent and relieve homelessness. There are no duties placed on housing associations but housing associations are keen to support it. 

Working together to end homelessness

We are working with the Local Government Association (LGA), with the support of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), to bring together housing associations and local authorities to tackle homelessness in partnership. We have also been working to support Homes for Cathy - a group of housing associations that came together in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home and to highlight the continuing needs of homeless people.

Commitment to Refer

The Commitment to Refer is a voluntary housing association commitment we developed with DLUHC to refer residents to a local authority if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Rough Sleeping Strategy

Housing associations have a key part to play in resolving rough sleeping through accommodation and prevention.

Housing First

As awareness of the Housing First model and its apparent success has become widespread, more housing associations have started to get involved and others are considering how they might offer the service.

How can housing associations help to prevent homelessness?

Published in collaboration with CIH and Homes for Cathy, this compendium of case studies shines a light on the work housing associations continue to do in tackling homelessness. It provides examples of the many ways in which housing associations already help prevent homelessness for their tenants and other people at risk of homelessness, and can be a guide for housing associations wanting to embed successful homelessness prevention in their organisation.

Who to speak to

Dylan Hemmings