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The last three years have put the homelessness sector under a pressure we could never have imagined. People working in Homeless Link’s member organisations showed incredible flexibility and resilience to ensure that people experiencing homelessness were safeguarded from the coronavirus, whilst dealing with its impact in each of their own lives too. 

The Government’s Living With COVID-19 strategy removes some of the uncertainty that we have lived with, and I feel that it may now be the time for us to lift our heads up, move out of the survival ‘doing’ mode that was a normal part of daily life for so long, and think about recovery. 

Many of you will know, from the adoption of psychologically-informed and trauma-informed approaches, that key factors that support recovery and resilience are focussing on strengths and hopes, and being reflective. In busy work environments it can be difficult to see this as a priority but taking this time to think about what has gone well and celebrate successes is really important. 

It reminds us of what’s possible and the important steps we, as a movement of homelessness organisations, are taking every day to create a better future. 

That’s why I’m particularly excited to be involved in this year’s awards as right now in the sector there is a lot to celebrate. The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in England has decreased for the fourth year in succession. The decrease is a testament to the hard work and dedication of homelessness services and local authorities. 

The innovation homelessness services have shown over the last couple of years is a cause for celebration. Staff have been moving mountains daily for the last two years and it has been exhausting. But in the face of a pandemic and a housing crisis, the sector has continued to be creative to improve ways of delivering services and overcome the toughest challenges.  

In my role I’m always on the lookout for great examples of positive practice and the awards are a fantastic way to find and share them with the sector. 

Lessons can be learnt from each of last year’s winning projects. BCHA’s transformational work providing former rough sleepers with their own secure accommodation is a good model for how to create a psychologically-informed environment. P3 Charity’s effective hospital discharge programme shows us how health partnerships can work in practice. LEAF’s work changing systems by empowering and amplifying people who have experienced homelessness has lessons for us all on co-production. Basis Yorkshire's women-led approach has useful practice in how to challenge stigma and create inclusive services. If their stories inspire just one organisation to do things differently it will have an impact. 

I’m really looking forward to seeing more innovative and potentially game-changing practice examples in this year’s entries. 

Whether or not you end up with an award, this is a great chance to reflect, share your practice with others and remind yourself and your colleagues what you’re proud of. We can’t wait to see what you share! 

Applications to this year's awards are now closed.

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Jo Prestidge

Head of National Practice Development

Jo is Head of National Practice Development at Homeless Link.