What is Starts at Home?

Back in 2015, the government announced it was changing the funding model of supported housing. These changes would make it more difficult for the sector to build the much-needed new supported housing schemes and it risked the closure of critically important existing schemes.

In response, the National Housing Federation created Starts at Home with our members, as a moment and story for supported housing.

They began by running a series of workshops, which looked at how members described supported housing, what it meant for their organisations and residents. Most importantly, they looked at what they could do collectively to raise the profile of supported housing and to engage with their local MPs.

The experience of supporting people through the pandemic has shown the value of care and support services and the difference that having a safe and secure place to live can make to people’s lives.

Below are some examples of the difference made in our residents lives because of supported housing.

My first happiness, that’s how I always see this place

Ex saha refuge resident

Sarah (Not her real name) moved into one of our saha supported services having met the criteria for homelessness or at risk of being made homeless.

At the time of the referral Sarah was pregnant and sofa surfing with friends having been told to leave the family home due to a relationship breakdown with her parents. Sarah faced many challenges at the beginning of her tenancy within the service.

She was required to sign a licence agreement, read and sign house rules, engage with the support, share communal living areas with complete strangers, learn to cook for herself and generally start gaining the skills ready for independent living. In addition Sarah has given birth and is now a single parent.

Whilst being at the service she has completed passport to Independence through 1 to 1 sessions and workshops. She has gained 3 AQA awards and has also completed the CAP course (Christians against poverty) which helps clients to budget and prevent debt.

Sarah has said she is now ready to move on into her own property and is very proud of what she has achieved whilst being at the service.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual.


A came from Pakistan into the UK entering an arranged marriage, but then went to live with a family member temporarily, after the relationship broke down. This eventually resulted in A becoming homeless and being housed by saha.

Whilst being at a saha service A has enrolled Into a local college to study English language. A will continue to study in the hopes of becoming a dentist. A has completed “passport to independence tenancy training” and has also gained certificates from AQA, attended in-house groups and workshops ( such as art and cooking), learnt how to manage money, engaged with a job coach who has supported with CV writing, completed a housing application, and taken part in online activities including learning how to knit.
A likes to share their love for cooking and will invite staff to taste food that they have made from fresh produce, A has also shared with a group how to cook rice.

A has gained temporary work locally and now has their own independence living in a flat that is within scheme. A feels safe living at the scheme and feels good for the future.

Broken Crayons can still colour, a quote that resonates with Doncaster Foyer and how Becky proved just that!

A young girl who had a story to tell that consumed her and held her back.

Becky worked incredibly hard to change her mind set, build her confidence and discover exactly what ‘Becky’ was about and what she had to offer the world. What started off as a coping strategy and a way to communicate with others Becky discovered her talent and passion for writing. This helped break down barriers for Becky in many ways.

Becky enjoyed being creative, there is picture in the office that

When Becky moved on she said: ‘Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn’t know you left open’

Becky linked up with a writer’s group during her tenancy. She took part in workshops and started to share her work with others, she started to flourish.

Who knew that Becky would be stood on a stage, in a different city reading out her own work,  that her work would be published in a writer’s magazine. Watching and being part of Becky’s incredible reinvention and discovery of herself has been inspirational.

Who knew……!

I am an addict who was dependent on alcohol & drugs. In December 2020 I had to go to hospital for an emergency back operation, and I turned up at the hospital in my own words as being ‘broke, busted, disgusted & couldn’t be trusted’. I had drunk alcohol, used cocaine, and had taken Valium before turning up for the operation. After the operation I became very poorly due to the withdrawal symptoms of my alcohol & drug usage, and the hospital staff who were going to discharge me on the same day saw that I was unwell. I admitted to them that I was an addict, and they kept me in hospital & arranged a detox.

Whilst in hospital & ‘out of the blue’ an old friend of mine contacted me. This friend is in recovery, we spoke about addiction, and this friend mentioned that they were in a recovery service called Shilhay. My friend helped me to apply to Shilhay & I gained housing with them.

Shilhay means everything. If I had not come to Shilhay I would no doubt be dead now. Thinking about my life ahead whilst in hospital, all I could see was a return to my unsafe housing, using alcohol & drugs to a point of excess and overdose that would lead to death. My mental health state was not good. The opportunity to come to Shilhay has given me life.

Shilhay provides me with a safe house, house rules, weekly drugs test, and importantly staff & peers that understand addiction. I have also received support to engage with Christians Against Poverty who are helping me sort out all my previous debt issues. I have also been able to re-engage with my two children, and whom I am now able to visit regularly. From this house I can also engage with activities within the community that include; attending CA & AA mutual aid group meetings, and working with my 12 Step sponsor, going to a local church, and I also volunteer every Tuesday evening helping the homeless, where I get the opportunity to talk to people about addiction, recovery, and can support any individual who may wish to attend a mutual aid group meeting.

I have been in two rehabs, and other ‘dry’ houses before, but my experience being at Shilhay is the best. I would like to thank the Shilhay team, my 12 Step sponsor, Liz from CAP, Tim from Exeter Network Church & Crosslines, and my Pastor Carl from St. Boniface Church.  As I see it now, out of an emergency hospital admission God has entered my life & given me so much.


I am an addict in recovery, and I am now 8 months sober. However, the 12 Step programme tells us to live only 24 hours ahead, therefore I need to keep my feet planted in the here & now, as the disease of addiction could drag me back at any given moment if I allow it too, and by stopping the use of the 12 Step fellowship tools.

Essentially; my continuation within recovery is a key factor in my life now, and along with my newly found faith in Jesus. I therefore now try to apply 12 Step Recovery principles & Christian living each day. I am in the process of setting up a new CA meeting, and I am also helping my church set up a new satellite church in the City.

Continuing as I am is important, and that also includes progressing with parental duties. If I take care of myself today, then the future will open up for me as it needs too. I just value the support that Shilhay give, and will provide as my life evolves.

I think since moving into the service my mental health has improved. I can deal with stressful situations a bit better. I figured out a way to calm down, which meant I didn’t get kicked out. This lead to me staying here and eventually being offered my own property – which I’m buzzing about.

The Limes Ex Resident

I moved to Shilhay to sort my life out. I knew I needed to stop drinking, and I wanted a recovery house with support in Exeter. A local addiction agency put me in touch with Shilhay & I made a visit to see the staff there. I presented not being sober, and the staff were non-judgemental of this fact, and gave me information as to what to do next. I then had to take the required steps to gain sobriety, and prove to myself that I was indeed ready for the recovery journey.


Shilhay has always made me feel very safe, secure, protected, and content. There is a sense of community within a co-living environment, and particularly with other individuals who are working the 12 Step recovery programme as I am. There is always continual support from staff or other peers if I am feeling a bit wobbly around my addiction.


The support I have received has involved daily staff engagement, support planning to help change behaviours, and to keep safe. Encouragement from staff has led to a return to a greater sense of independence within personal, and community living.  Living with other peers who have the same issues as I am going through was, and still is a massive eye opener. Peer support to attend mutual aid group meetings was a massive help early on in my recovery, especially when your confidence is at a low level.


My continued hope is holding onto my sobriety, gaining more confidence, and returning to being a contributing member of society.

A 12 Step recovery journey within its own definition is, and has to be an individual experience. 12 Step recovery will help you explore what you were doing within the madness of your addiction, and help get your life back on track to a sense of ‘normality’ through righting the wrongs of a previously destructive lifestyle not only to yourself, but towards others, and help make change possible for your future. Shilhay provides me with a safe living environment, and staff support to continue with my recovery journey.

I was homeless in early 2017 and came to the Shilhay service via St Petrocks, a local homeless support centre.


I was an active alcoholic at the time and was offered a room in a ‘wet house’. I was glad to be off the streets but my drink problem remained and I didn’t address it.


Through my own behaviour I eventually got evicted from the ‘wet house’. It was the push I needed to finally address my addiction. I immediately stopped drinking and a few days later the Shilhay Manager gave me a chance and offered me a room in a ‘dry house’, which I gratefully accepted.


I started working the AA 12 Step Program and following the recovery house rules. I have been here for over two years now and have been sober throughout that time.


I am incredibly grateful to live in a sober and caring environment that has been invaluable in assisting me with staying sober and my continuing recovery.


I have received a great deal of support throughout my time at the project, both personal and practical in nature. I was put in touch with, and supported through meetings with, the charity CAP, to help with debt problems that have since been resolved. Things like this have made my life much more manageable which is a big part of recovery.


I know that when I need to move on from the project I will have support from the service to help me get suitable accommodation. The service has provided an environment that makes maintaining my sobriety and looking ahead to the future a much easier and rewarding prospect.

Z moved into East Sussex Young Parents Service last year, with her baby who was on a child protection plan. There were multiple concerns around finances, exploitation and ability to prioritise her child’s needs.

For 3 months there was little engagement and fear of expressing her own needs. As a trusting relationship was developed, Z began to engage and confidence develop, initially with SAHA staff then external professionals.

Z has been supported through Saha’s Cowan fund to access a laptop for online learning and has completed her in house programme ready for move on. Z has savings now ready for move on and her room is well maintained. Interaction with her son is positive, they have a balanced diet and her confidence has hugely developed. Z now confidently shares her story with residents, stating what her barriers were when she moved into the service and acknowledging how saha have supported her. Z shares what she has learnt and now supports other young people.

X moved into the East Sussex Young Parents Service last year from emergency accommodation, which she described as time the worst time of her life. X had a very traumatic childhood and was unable to recognise how she could change her parenting from what she had learnt herself growing up.

X states she was putting herself before her baby, stating they had no bond, and socialising with people late at night who were using substances. Her room was untidy, cluttered and unhygienic and her baby was unsuitable dressed for the weather. Staff completed a safeguarding referral.

X describes that this made her change for the better as she realised she was at risk of losing her baby when her baby put placed on a child protection plan. Action plans and support led to personal hygiene and room hygiene being addressed, attachment and child focused play and removal of some friendship circles.

Through the in house programme X has achieved several AQA awards in creativity arts, tenancy maintenance, cleaning, substance misuse, positive parenting, planning a bedroom for a baby, emotional and mental well-being, healthy lifestyle, sexual health and contraception. X attended weekly creative and music sessions, feeds her baby healthily and has been nominated for saha resident awards.

X states that “ESYPS has changed my life for the better and I am so grateful to every member of staff for helping me and pushing me to get to where I am today’.

ESYPS has changed my life for the better and I am so grateful to every member of staff for helping me and pushing me to get to where I am today.

ESYPS resident

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