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In our latest spotlight on the work of Homeless Link’s Partnership Managers, Morgan Harries who covers the East of England, delves into the resilience and innovation of the Leicestershire Homelessness Forum.

She highlights what the work of the forum can teach us about effective solutions for ending homelessness.

I joined Homeless Link in December 2023 as Partnerships Manager for the East of England and East Midlands, eager for the opportunity to give voice to the experiences of the people I have spent my career working alongside. Having spent most of my twenties working variously in outreach, Housing First, hostels and Fulfilling Lives projects, I have experienced how difficult it is to retain your sense of hope and purpose in homelessness work in the face of funding cuts, bearing witness to people’s profound traumas, the demonization of people sleeping rough in political discourse, and the insidious widening of financial and social inequality.

This role however, in supporting and developing partnerships in different local areas, focusses on the parts of the work which I found most hope in - the strength and creativity of the people who choose this sector to work in, and that of the people that we work with. By becoming a more united voice in strategy and solutions, sharing finite resources, drawing on the wide variety of skills of the workforce, championing the voices of those with lived experience, and supporting each other through difficult times, homelessness services are more likely to be able to find a way through the carnage caused within our communities by austerity politics and hostile environments.

Collective work towards ending homelessness

One project which I have become involved with in the past six months includes supporting the development of a new homelessness forum which spans Leicestershire, Leicester City and Rutland. Region, county or borough-wide homelessness forums are powerful as they bring together local leaders of homelessness services in the voluntary and public sector to plan for how the collective can work towards ending homelessness in their area. Rather than each working separately in silos, this way of working means that there is a shared vision, agreed goals, less duplication, and ultimately a better experience of support for the people experiencing homelessness in that area. The organisations involved in this one include Falcon Support Services, Action Homeless, One Roof, The Bridge (East Midlands) and Turning Point,

Supporting local partnerships

Ending homelessness requires many people to work together across the voluntary sector, local government, health services and private sector. Homeless Link have pioneered and continue to support local partnerships across England to improve collaboration.

Find out more about the work of our Partnerships team

This forum has just held a session to map out all its members’ shared areas of influence – the people and organisations which members are connected to and can reach out to for support. Those listed include political figures like the mayor and local MPs, as well as council professionals in housing and social care, and then the wonderful myriad connections to local businesses, faith groups, media outlets and community leaders. It was amazing to see how the years of experience and commitment of the people in the room has created this huge web of interconnected forces for good in their community. While I often get lost in the bleak news headlines, here was visible proof of the strength and vitality of people fighting for change, day in and day out.

Next, the partnership will decide on its key messages and priorities for the upcoming year based on the most significant and frequently experienced issues that its members are each experiencing. By taking a systems view - seeing these issues as rooted in problems or ‘blockages’ within a complex, interconnected system, rather than the discreet failures of individual people – it is more likely that the solutions will also be nuanced and wide-reaching, rather than just quick fixes. Using the map of influence then, the forum can target those people and groups where they have the most sway to bring about the biggest and most sustainable systemic changes. This might be focussing on a shared campaign to ask local politicians to vote to change a specific policy; or rallying together community groups to disseminate more accurate information around housing rights to hard-to-reach communities.

The challenges for people leaving Home Office accommodation

One urgent issue that all of the partners are seeing at the moment is the significant increase in people sleeping rough who have just left Home Office accommodation, after only being given 28 days’ notice (and sometimes less) of their imminent change of status. These are people who often have no support network, financial resources, or English language skills, as well as significant traumas in their past. They are often not found in priority need by their local authority and are forced into rough sleeping, with high potential for their vulnerabilities to make them targets for exploitation and modern slavery. As part of my involvement in the partnership, I can offer an independent and national perspective on this issue. This may include insights on how other local areas have found workable solutions and been able to house more refugees, facilitating more in-depth workshops on understanding the systemic nature of the issue, or in sharing resources on campaigning at a local and national level for changes in law and policy.

Ultimately, the changes brought about by this kind of partnership work will lead to better outcomes for people experiencing homelessness in Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland – smoother and quicker resolutions, access to greater resources, less re-traumatization, and more equitable communities. That is the future of homelessness work that I believe in.

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Morgan Harries

Partnership Manager (East of England)