Housing associations are partnering with local authorities and other organisations to help to house rough sleepers as part of the sector’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Sovereign has partnered with West Berkshire Council and charity Two Saints to find homes for 10 homeless people in the county through Housing First – an initiative that helps long-term homeless people, often with complex personal issues, move into their own permanent home with a tenancy agreement and extensive support.
This cuts out the stages of hostels and temporary accommodation, with homeless people going straight to a permanent home, with the support that they choose, arranged to suit them.
Similar partnerships have been set up on the Isle of Wight, in Basingstoke and Deane, Dorset, Bristol and Swindon, and Sovereign is aiming to provide a minimum of 50 Housing First homes by 2024. These strong partnerships have meant that during lockdown it has been easier for Sovereign to find places for people to stay.
Barry is just one resident who has moved into a Housing First home, his first permanent place to live in more than three years.
Citizen Housing has worked with Coventry Council to convert a former housing with care scheme of flats to house rough sleepers. The service opened on 6 April 2020, and 44 rough sleepers have been housed in self-contained fully furnished flats. The flats have their own cooking facilities and one hot meal a day is provided. The initial period is three months, but Citizen has agreed that the arrangements can be extended for up to a further nine months. Move-on accommodation will be part of the transition service and it’s likely that the majority will move into permanent accommodation provided by Citizen.
To combat isolation in lockdown, Riverside established a buddy system to make regular phone calls to vulnerable residents, providing much needed social connections. They also mobilised a ‘volunteer army’ from the hundreds of colleagues to help do whatever is needed. Riverside are also looking at how the nation has helped so many rough sleepers off the streets and how we can prevent a return to rough sleeping.
At Progress Housing Group’s Parker House, a purpose-built scheme which houses homeless young people, wifi was installed at the start of lockdown to ensure that residents could stay connected.
The Group provided information to help residents look after their own wellbeing, strategies for coping with anxiety, and adapted each individual support plan with a focus on mental health and lockdown survival.
Progress have also set up an Amazon wish list to enable people to support and donate to families and young people by purchasing art and craft items. Residents of the Group’s homelessness schemes and women’s refuges have benefitted, with both staff and members of the public donating, generating around £400 worth of craft materials and mindfulness colouring books
Collaboration works – never more so than in the hardest of times
Managing the impact of a global pandemic was not part of the partnership agreement when we established Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) eight years ago. But what has become clear is that the relationships built, and the trust and spirit of togetherness harnessed over years of joint initiatives, has given us the opportunity to share and collaborate right from the start of this crisis.
Blog by Jon Lord, Chief Executive of Bolton at Home, and Chair of the Greater Manchester Housing Partnership
Successful Tenancies is Hyde’s homelessness prevention service, working with residents who are at risk of failing their tenancies. It consolidates four elements – money and debt, welfare benefit, health advocacy, and employment support specialists into one service.
Working across 40 local authorities, Hyde aims to resolve any immediate issues putting residents’ tenancy at risk, and also to improve their quality of life and raise aspirations, and increase their resilience for any future crises.
This work is also supported through a grant programme funded by the Hyde Charitable Trust where residents can access grants for goods and services which will help them stay in their home and prevent use of high-interest credit.
During the coronavirus crisis, the Successful Tenancies model has enabled Hyde to offer a comprehensive support package including:
- Welfare benefit advice
- FCA-regulated money specialists offering a debt advice service
- Fast-tracking residents who lose their jobs to in-house employment support
- A health advocacy service to cope with the impact of lockdown
- An extensive grants package focused on short-term crisis assistance (unpaid utility bills, replacement white goods, etc)
- Bursaries for purchasing computers to aid job search, home schooling and studies
Hyde has also implemented several initiatives to ensure residents access the right advice and support:
- ‘Coronavirus and benefits’ training for frontline staff to help them identify customers at need of specialist advice
- An interim escalation process that redirects cases that would otherwise have gone to court to specialist benefit or debt advisers
- Collecting real-time feedback from staff and customers to analyse need and experience, to better tailor advice and support
- Data analysis of rent payment trends to identify high-risk customers as early as possible and focus preventative work where it is most needed
- Increasing the number of specialist welfare and debt staff in anticipation of greater need from September
Since lockdown 450 customers have received specialist case work, with projected financial gains to those receiving assistance in excess of £700,000.
Staffs Housing is supporting its partner, homelessness charity Concrete, (both part of the Honeycomb Group family) to accommodate those temporarily living in a local hotel into safe and secure homes.
Back in March, Concrete joined the MHCLG project to protect rough sleepers from the outbreak of coronavirus. In partnership with the Holiday Inn and Stoke City Council, Concrete was able to house over 50 people in private ensuite accommodation with hot meals, toiletries, wellbeing support and through on-site physical and mental health practitioners providing specialist support.
Concrete is now working with Staffs Housing to find homes for the hotel residents to move into. The housing association has recently converted a property into self-contained quality homes with which Concrete will provide support to single people at risk of homelessness.
“We are really proud to support the challenge to help local people at risk of homelessness in our community,” explains Tim Sheail, Staffs Housing's Director of Housing Services. “One of Concrete’s key principles is that everyone deserves the right to a good home, which we also champion. We’re committed to supporting Concrete in its mission to provide the right support and housing opportunities for those who have been temporarily housed in the hotel and who will need a lot of support to make sure they make a successful transition to secure housing.”