‘Beginning of the end for old way of doing this’, hears Minister

Members of Scotland’s new team to tackle homelessness and its causes updated the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, this week on their work so far, signalling the beginning of the end for traditional responses to homelessness in Scotland.

Titled All In For Change, the team puts lived experience at the heart of change by bringing together people with frontline responsibilities and people with their own, personal experience of homelessness either currently or in the past. It will support thinking and action around the Scottish Government’s ambitious Ending Homelessness Together  Plan.

All in for Change, which launched in December (2019) is being led by Homeless Network Scotland, Cyrenians and Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC).

At the meeting of the Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group on Tuesday, group members representing charities, local and national government and housing providers received a detailed situation report, that included a menu of seven key messages:

  1. People are seeing change at the margins, but traditional systems are still causing stress and anxiety
    This means that we are starting to see changes happen on the ground, but this has definitely not yet reached tipping point. Old language and old systems are still alive and still being challenged every day.
  2. Until the new systems are fully up and running
    advocacy can really help people to navigate the old system. This means that some people can get through the complex homelessness system more easily with the support of someone else. This can take many different forms – legal advocacy, independent advocacy as well as informal or peer advocacy. Advocacy should be easier to access in all areas.
  3. Housing First works when services are properly linked in
    This means that people need access to local public services when they need them and to feel part of a safe and strong community to build and live their lives. Everyone needs to get behind Housing First services to help make these links happen on the ground.
  4. Positive “people, places and things” are vital for all of us
    This means that people need something good to focus on and replace harmful or negative routines as they move on from an experience of homelessness.
  5. Focus on building lives as well as finding homes
    This means not limiting people and always focusing on people’s strengths and aspirations for the life and connections they want to have.
  6. Homelessness is a 24/7 issue, with a 9-5 response
    This means that people experiencing homelessness often cannot access services when they need them, especially after 5pm or at the weekend. Can local areas look more closely at this?
  7. We can make better use of recovery communities and preventative local policies
    This means that we want to see community-based recovery and addictions services moving closer together and sharing best practice. And more preventative policy across education, health, justice and housing to prevent people reaching a point of crisis.

Importantly, the work of the Change Team is not just about identifying what is getting in the way of change, but about proposing – and implementing – the solutions.

Michelle Major, Change Lead with Homeless Network Scotland, said: “It’s been a busy few months, with three Change Team events taking place at a central location in Scotland to make it as easy as possible for team members to travel from around the country. This project is bringing people together – to work together – who have traditionally been separated by a desk, or even a glass screen.

“Collectively, the Change Team understands the reality of homelessness in a unique way – from the viewpoints of both service providers and people who need to access homelessness services. That has not been done before at this scale and it’s been an amazing experience to witness the energy and solutions generated so far through combining these unique perspectives in a single team.”

The 30 people making up the Change Team were selected from more than 70 who applied and are now represented on the national strategy group on homelessness, co chaired by Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP and Councillor Elena Whitham. It will build a network of those living and working with homelessness to influence policy and strategy at local and national levels – and to help turn that into real change on the ground.

You can read the Change Team’s first report and story so far here (PDF).