No ‘let-up’ in Covid response

“The winter months ahead could have a devastating impact on people who don’t have a home, we must get this right.”
Maggie Brunjes – Chief executive, Homeless Network Scotland

Charity and academic sector leaders will use this year’s Scottish homelessness conference from Tuesday 20 to Thursday 22 October to urge people and organisations in Scotland that are concerned about homelessness to keep up the pace as winter approaches.

A rapid response from the sector and government in March focused on getting people inside. The online event titled Safe As Houses will explore what is needed to build on that success and continue progress made before the pandemic so that homelessness services – and the people directly affected – are not left carrying the can for a global health pandemic.

Homeless Network Scotland organises the annual event, which this year offers delegates a choice of seminars and interactive online sessions, with more than 300 booked to attend. Event partners for the 2020 conference are Bethany Christian Trust and The Salvation Army.

The Scottish Government’s updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan published earlier this month, is the backdrop to one of the cornerstone sessions at the conference on Wednesday, an interactive Q&A with Kevin Stewart MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Local Government, Housing & Planning.   

Maggie Brünjes, Chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said:

“Few of us will emerge from this pandemic unaffected by it, but not everyone is in the same boat. The pandemic has laid bare the inequality and unfairness at the root of homelessness. How can you stay at home if you don’t have one, and how can you remain safe at home if that home isn’t safe?”

“This is the first opportunity since the start of restrictions for all those concerned about homelessness in Scotland to connect on this scale. We want to highlight the extraordinary efforts of individuals and organisations during the first stage of the pandemic, from those experiencing homelessness who faced added uncertainty on top of an already stressful situation, to colleagues on the frontline walking alongside people during the crisis. Plus the many, many people behind the scenes shifting focus and financial support to where it was needed.

“Now, almost eight months in, there must be no let-up in the pace needed to get everyone home. There is no good time to be homeless, but the winter months ahead could have a devastating impact on people who don’t have a home – we must get this right.”

The  Safe as Houses conference is built around five themes.

  1. A global pandemic: drawing out international learning and comparisons on responses to homelessness.
  2. Whatever the problem, the answer is relationships: exploring the role of relationships as the lynchpin for professional and personal wellbeing.
  3. A day in the sun for good law and policy: building from recent successes to ensure it is upheld on the ground every time and for every person.
  4. Same storm, different boat: redressing the unfairness at the root of homelessness and the impact of the pandemic and its aftermath.
  5. If we don’t all row, the boat won’t go getting alongside each other – in all our different roles – to make a collective impact on homelessness.

Lydia Stazen, Director of the Institute of Global Homelessness in Chicago, is taking part in one of the first sessions on Tuesday morning titled ‘What Just Happened?’, which also includes panel members from India and Holland for a global perspective.

Lydia Stazen said: The past six months have accelerated global efforts to end homelessness and taught us so much about what works – and what doesn’t. Safe as Houses provides a platform to adapt and tailor those lessons for Scotland.”

Sir Andrew Cubie, Chair of Scotland’s Housing First Advisory Group, will chair a political discussion on Wednesday afternoon titled, ‘Taking the ‘P’ Out of Homelessness’. Ahead of the Scottish Parliament Elections in May this seminar will debate how to take the politics out of homelessness in Scotland, with all five political parties at Holyrood invited.

Sir Andrew Cubiesaid: “In this most difficult year, and as we approach a winter of acute concern, I welcome the opportunity of gathering folk together again who are dedicated to bringing homelessness, as we know it, to an end.”

Pat McArdle, CEO of Mayday Trust, joins the conference for a session as part of theme two, ‘Whatever the problem, the answer is relationships’. This theme will explore the role of social connectedness as the lynchpin for personal and professional wellbeing, and why ‘kindness’ is returning to the language of support, with a stronger focus on fixing the big problems like access to money and housing.

Pat McArdle said: “I am genuinely delighted to be part of this conference with all the key stakeholders in the room bravely discussing the real-world issues raised by people themselves who are going through the toughest of times.”

Booking is essential, reserve a place at Scotland’s annual homelessness conference and set up a profile ahead of the event to join on Tuesday 20 October 2020 from 10am.