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The National Practice Development Team work to identify, develop and support implementation of emerging and evidence-based practices in homelessness service design and delivery. Last month, members of the team attended the rough sleeping conference. This blog shares their reflections.

The system

The conference explored big picture themes around tackling rough sleeping, such as how systems are designed and how we collect and use data to plan services. Our Women’s Homelessness Project Manager, Isabel Langdale, writes:

‘The conference kicked off with an impressive presentation from the built for zero initiative about their mission to use data effectively to end homelessness (reach “functional zero”). The presentation raised lots of important questions about how systems we operate in are designed to remedy the effects of homelessness, rather than having an intention of ending homelessness.

‘While I’m really interested to see how this can be translated in a UK context, the workshop I then facilitated ‘Making Women Count’ was a helpful reminder of the limitations of reliance on data. Women, LGBTQI, black and minoritized people, young people, among others are more likely to be ‘hidden homeless’ and therefore left out of available data sets’.

The services

Attendees were also invited to dive into case studies of a range of different services being offered in the sector, hearing directly from those working on the frontline. Alex Smith, who leads our work on Housing First, reflects:

‘It was an inspiration to chair the session on high stability housing and Housing First with Scarborough’s REACH team and L&Q Living. We heard about the importance of a shared multi-agency team identity to create strong partnerships, take a truly psychologically and trauma-informed approach and to genuinely work in a person-centred way.

“There is no failure, we just haven’t found the right solution yet.” 

The culture

It’s not just about what we do to end rough sleeping, but how we do it. Individual values, organisational approach and culture within our systems, shapes and impacts practice. Viv Griffiths, Project Manager for Annual Rough Sleeping Snapshot Estimates writes:

‘Curiosity, networking and relationship building to deliver good outcomes seems of vital importance. They can often be viewed as nice-to-haves when you're working frontline; “if there's time, when your caseload is under control etc”. But what struck me from Rushmoor Council’s workshop about their prison in-reach programme, was how much their success was a result of their curiosity’.

‘They actively sought to understand what housing support was available for inmates on release, they got themselves invited into the prisons in their area as well as developing relationships. They built the in-reach programme themselves - from the ground up. There was an energy and drive to the way they talked about their work that came from having had the freedom to explore what would work best and with whom.’

Next steps

These are just some of the highlights and reflections from the day, although there were many more. We look forward to attending the next conference on Mental Health and Homelessness and hope to see you there.

Watch this space for our upcoming webinar about the new national ‘Ending Rough Sleeping Framework’, an interactive session for all organisations working with people experiencing homelessness, to explore how they can play a crucial role in supporting local authorities to get the most accurate rough sleeping figures.

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Jo Prestidge

Head of National Practice Development

Jo is Head of National Practice Development at Homeless Link.