Five Charities, Five Towns, One Solution
What services or changes to your existing services would you need to end rough sleeping locally? I asked myself the question and couldn’t answer it, (although I haven’t given up). I know that I don’t have a fully worked up, evidence based proposal for a funder that states ‘give us this amount of cash, we’ll spend it in this way to provide this additional service, and if you do, I’m supremely confident that within a specific timeframe the numbers of people sleeping rough in this locality will be negligible’. It’s not a fair question really, designing a local ‘solution to street homelessness’ is much harder than it sounds, I’ve heard it said that it’s not possible, but surely we must try? I’ve heard it said that we’re not commissioners, but is anyone else doing this work in your local area? I’ve heard it said that we should focus our limited resources delivering services, but shouldn’t we also be undertaking ambitious service development work?
Rewinding a little - I was at the most recent Homeless Link conference for CEOs and my peers and I were being challenged to empower ourselves. We talked about the national strategy to end rough sleeping and the Crisis plan and then asked ourselves: Why aren’t we just getting on with this ourselves? Why aren’t a few of us working together to design (for the areas where we have the local expertise), what it would take to end rough sleeping in that area?’ We realised there’s no valid answer to that question, except to get on with it.
We have now developed these early conversations into a group of five homelessness service delivery charities: HARP South End, Two Saints, Homeless Action Leicester, Trinity, SPEAR and Homeless Link. Each of the service delivery partners have well established service provision, partnerships, and a track-record in a chosen local area in which street homelessness is neither too small nor too large, so that a complete local solution is possible to envisage. We’ve been meeting over the last few months to build our business case for support.
Colleagues are excited; operational managers are already learning from each other and data leads are talking about the challenges of common data sets, measuring impact, and more. We’ve shared case studies from our clients’ perspectives about what made the difference in their successes. We’ve discovered shared values, a shared appreciation of the relationship between clients and their support workers, developed over time, through person centred and empowering ways of working, and a shared enthusiasm for lived experience to inform our work. It is on this basis that we intend to take our project forward and undertake the more technical challenges of writing a bid, designing how we will map unmet need in the chosen local areas, how we will collectively analyse what works and what doesn’t, how we’ll support and learn from each other, how we’ll compare each other’s and wider best practice, determine what additional resource we need within our charities and what external support we need to go on this journey, and how much it will cost. It’s a little daunting, but everyone’s feeling fired up about the plan, which will start with us working together to develop the case for funding support which will enable us to collectively design and ultimately implement a local solution to street homelessness.
If we can make this work, we’ll have shown that five charities, working in five towns can develop one solution – a proven methodology for ending rough sleeping, one locality at a time. We will have demonstrated the power we have to be strategic, to innovate, and to work as non-competitive peers with a common goal. We’ll have a positive impact on our local partners and local authority colleagues. We’ll have inspired other homelessness charities and their partners and funders to do the same in other local areas. And we’ll have shown that, from the ground up, how locally focused homelessness charities and their partners can support the delivery of the national strategy to end rough sleeping.
Please watch this space to find out more; I will update you as and when we get funding. Although the group is closed, if you are interested in learning more from what we are doing or would like to do something similar yourself, please contact Homeless Link here.
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Stuart is the Chief Executive of SPEAR.