On 23 September, the Kerslake Commission published their report 'A new way of working: ending rough sleeping together'. One key recommendation of the report is that the NHF continues to work with Homes for Cathy to champion and promote the positive work being done by housing associations to prevent and relieve homelessness. It is hoped this will drive forward the sector’s 'commitment to collaborate'.
The word 'commitment' is key
As the NHF acknowledged with the introduction of their ‘Commitment to Refer’, the Kerslake Commission’s report states that housing associations are not public bodies and therefore do not have a legal duty to address homelessness. Despite this, as a sector we still have a social responsibility to act.
At Homes for Cathy, we couldn't agree more. It's a drum we have been banging since our inception in 2016. We were formed on the back of the 50th anniversary of the seminal TV drama Cathy Come Home, when a group of like-minded organisations joined forces to encourage housing associations to put ending homelessness at the top of their business agenda as part of their social purpose.
Our own Homes for Cathy board is made of housing association CEOs, so we recognise the conflicting demands and challenges that housing associations' senior leadership teams face on a daily basis. That's why we developed our nine commitments in partnership with the homelessness charity Crisis, who also sit on our board.
Although aspirational, the commitments ensure homelessness remains on an organisation’s agenda. They provide a reference point for housing associations to develop policies and practices and provide accommodation and services that meet the needs of people who are either experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Member feedback highlights that the commitments provide support and direction and offer a real and relevant benchmark by which their boards can hold them to account. Many members now produce annual homelessness action plans based on their progress against them.
Coincidentally, the commitments stress the need to collaborate highlighted by the Kerslake report; for example, commitment number 1 is to 'contribute to the development and execution of local authority homelessness strategies'. We know that for some organisations, being part of Homes for Cathy can facilitate their efforts to collaborate locally. Potential partners such as local authorities, property developers and third sector organisations recognise that they are already committed, experienced and knowledgeable on homelessness. This has been particularly important for members during the pandemic, when they have had to work in close partnership to deliver on the Everyone In scheme and Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) and Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) funding bids.
But Homes for Cathy isn't just about signing up to the Homes for Cathy commitments
As the Kerslake report stressed, it's also about the need to share best practice around ending homelessness and inspiring each other to do more. There is a lot of innovation going on out there in terms of homelessness provision and policy and we explore this progress via our regular workshops. In 2021 alone we've covered preventing evictions, providing properties that are ready to move into, tenancy training, migrant homelessness and meeting the needs of vulnerable tenants groups such as young people.
With World Homeless Day coming up on 10 October, now is the perfect time to consider what more your organisation could do to end homelessness. Encouraging your senior leadership team and board to join Homes for Cathy could be the perfect place to start.
If your organisation is interested in becoming a Homes for Cathy member, please email us for more information. We do not charge for membership.