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Catherine Ryder, Director of Policy and Research at the National Housing Federation, writes about their campaign to communicate the impact of supported housing and how organisations can get involved .

One of the things I have been most struck by in my ten years at the National Housing Federation (NHF) is the resilience and importance of the supported housing sector.

But the challenges supported housing providers face just to keep going are significant and growing. Need is becoming more acute and widespread, while at the same time cost increases mean funding issues that were already apparent are becoming critical. And, of course we live in the precarious world of short-term support contracts, if indeed those contracts still exist at all.

On 2 September, the NHF’s campaign Starts at Home Day will be an opportunity for housing associations up and down the country to promote the vital work they do in their communities. It has never been more timely.

Supported housing services range widely and include housing and support for older people, people who have experienced homelessness, veterans, survivors of domestic abuse, people with disabilities and people with mental health needs. The Starts at Home campaign has a simple aim: to highlight to local politicians and the government that every community needs good quality, affordable supported housing to help people live independently and with dignity.

What can great supported housing achieve?

In my role as Director of Policy and Research at the NHF, I have been lucky enough to visit lots of supported housing schemes over the years and see this work first hand. It is hands-down one of the best bits of my job.

The care and compassion I see from support workers when I visit our supported housing members was partly what led me to apply to be on the board of a housing association who provide homes and support for predominantly people experiencing single homelessness in London. I know that, behind the move-on numbers we look at as a board, there is a story of someone who is back on their feet and rebuilding their life. That is the genuine transformational power of supported housing.

In 2019, I was invited to the opening of Chi Winder, self-contained accommodation for homeless people, built and run by Homeless Link and NHF member, Coastline Housing. The care taken with the quality and design of the scheme was heartening to see. This was combined with access to a whole host of different support programmes and agencies that provided real wrap around support.

I think about Chi Winder often as it shows what is possible.

We need far more schemes like this – built and designed to accommodate the needs of the people who will be living there. It is definitely not the ambition and commitment of our sector that holds us back from achieving this.

The continued importance of Starts at Home Day

A few years ago the question of how housing costs in supported housing were funded was thrown up in the air and the sector came together to fight for its future. This was when we founded the Starts at Home campaign. As part of this campaign, supported housing providers were hugely effective at getting politicians to come out and see the difference schemes made in their own local areas. In turn, those politicians stood up in parliament and advocated with real passion and authenticity for supported housing, knowing that any schemes closing would have a devastating impact on people’s lives and put huge pressure on other public services. This is just one example of how once people have seen supported housing for themselves, they become champions of the sector. If we are going to break down the barriers that exist to building more supported housing, which all evidence shows we need, then we will need as many champions as we can muster.

Starts at Home provides a real opportunity for the sector to demonstrate its unique and collective value and turn local politicians, and potentially a new crop of ministers, into these champions. But the most important thing about Starts at Home day is that it gives people a chance to tell their story, in their own words, about what supported housing means to them. You don’t have to be a NHF or Homeless Link member to take part. [NJ1]

Let’s make sure those voices are heard in every community, in every part of the country, by as many people as possible.

Find out more about how to get involved with Starts at Home Day