What happened at the national Homelessness Impact Forum?

I attended the Homeless Impact Forum #Impactforum2022, hosted by Centre for Homeless Impact on 27 January 2022, so thought I would share some of the pearls of wisdom.

Homelessness remains a significant issue in many communities. For many it is hard to access subsidised long term housing support. For others there is too limited an amount of affordable housing with many private rentals being priced at levels above the housing benefit cap. An area where becoming homeless should not occur is the transition from social care or from prison into community. Both transitions have long lead-times to prepare for a sustainable housing solution. Yet too often exiting social care or prison results in unsuitable housing, which can lead to becoming homeless or a higher risk of re-offending.1 One area Restore is exploring is whether to be more active in the support of those being discharged from prison. We have always helped ex-offenders, but can we do more?

The high percentage of housing in private ownership leaves a massive gap in available social housing for those unable to access private housing. Past models have been to build and use shelters or hostels to accommodate those falling outside other housing solutions. The Housing First Initiative is seeking to address this imbalance. However, there remains a shortage of suitable affordable housing stock available. For those who need supported housing there is an increasing trend of creating community supported housing models. This is where those people in a shared house can be supported by various community groups, such as churches or neighbourhood associations.2 I know York is an expensive area to live and would be interested to find out what the gap is between current housing and affordable housing available.

One interesting idea that is being piloted in Manchester, Glasgow, and Swansea, is to give a cash transfer to relieve homelessness. 180 people with a history of street homelessness will take part in the pilot. This pilot is based on a study in Canada in 2018 where the outcomes were that individuals moved into stable housing faster, spent money on food, clothes and rent and spent fewer days homeless. I will follow the UK pilot with interest.

I came across a really interesting social business based in Scotland called Social Bite, who run a café where they recruited people from difficult employment backgrounds. They progressed to approach a local council to redevelop land where they built a small village of 2-bed supported accommodation buildings. This was as an alternative to the Bed & Breakfast accommodation typically used for short term solutions to becoming homeless. Residents in the village typically live there for 12-18 months until longer-term housing solutions can be found. They have helped over 50 people since the village was built. I wonder whether this would work in the York area?

In Manchester there are currently 600 people in temporary accommodation under the ‘a bed every night’ programme. This has helped reduce rough sleepers significantly. Finland have been pioneers in the housing first model, where it has become part of cultural philosophy. The pilot in England has been extended until 2024. I hope that the pilot is successful and can become part of our housing solution for those most in need. Are we still using unhelpful thinking and terminology? Should we be focusing on ‘housing first’ or focusing on ‘people first’? Just a thought.

In one of the seminars, I was interested to hear about how providing a long-term housing solution may not be suitable for some people. For example, not all 16-year-olds are ready for their own independent living solution. For those not ready, providing temporary supported housing solutions is a helpful stepping-stone towards longer-term outcomes. For vulnerable young persons, the provision of safe, supported housing can be more important than being housed in isolation in unsupported housing. For this group of individuals, the provision of choice is what becomes empowering.

Finally, I have signed up to the ‘End it with evidence’ campaign which is a call to action to improve the lives of people who are homeless or at risk through evidence-led change. I hope that Restore can be a voice of change as part of this national initiative.

I found the conference very insightful and interesting. I hope that I have been able to distil some of the key learning points I took away with me. I trust that if you have read this far, you will have found some aspects of current thinking regarding how to tackle homeless of interest. I will post this blog on Facebook, so if you would like to engage further then that would be possible.

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Every blessing.

Duncan Craig

Restore York CEO