Safe As Houses: Day 3 Round-up

The risk and impact of homelessness is not distributed equally. Some groups of people are more affected by, overrepresented in, or excluded from the homelessness system. 

This morning we kicked off the final day of Safe As Houses by exploring how homelessness discriminates in the same way as the pandemic and the consequences of this, including how this health, social and economic inequality affects us all and what levers we can pull to increase equality and advocate for a fairer society for all of us. 

A discussion with Ruth Robin (Portfolio Lead (Place, Home & Housing), NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland) explored the importance and practicalities of joined up working across housing and health, particularly now that the pandemic has shone a light on the relationship between health and home.

We were thrilled to welcome Eloise Nutbrown (Policy Manager, COSLA), who launched the Everyone Home Collective’s latest route-map, setting out a new future for NRPF and the people it affects in Scotland in our session on ending destitution and protecting human rights. You can find out more about the route-map here

Homeless Network Scotland Change Lead, Michelle Major, hosted Deborah Hay (Policy & Partnerships Manager, Joseph Rowntree Foundation), Pam Hunter (Chief Executive, Say Women), Peter Kelly (Director, Poverty Alliance), Elodie Mignard (Programme Manager, Scottish Refugee Council andHomeless Network Scotland Board) and Ruth Whatling (Team Leader, Scottish Government) in a live lounge discussion exploring what it will take to create safety and equality in Scotland. The speakers touched on both positive developments that we can build on, as well as obstacles to creating a fairer and more equal society.

The afternoon’s theme “If We Don’t All Row, The Boat Won’t Go!” centred on how we each find our role to make a collective impact on homelessness, and the perceptions of wider society and its role in preventing homelessness before it happens.

Scotland has corrected its course to resolve homelessness with a new method, a national plan and 32 local plans. The new direction that all partners are now navigating promises better and more cost-effective results, but many obstacles to change still persist. 

The spoken extract from a new book by award-winning journalist and author Mary O’Hara offered an insight into one of these obstacles; the toxic poverty narrative that often pervades conversations around homelessness. How we can overturn the deep-rooted portrayal that poverty is caused by personal flaws or ‘bad life decisions’ rather than policy choices or economic inequality is the central question of “The Shame Game”, and indeed a question that all of us working to end homelessness in Scotland grapple with. 

The challenge of overcoming established narratives was also a central theme of the live lounge discussion which followed. Hosted by Carolyn Sawers (Deputy Chief Executive, Corra Foundation) and featuring Catherine Ashford (Strategic Communications Project Manager, Crisis), Fiona Garven (Director, Scottish Community Development Centre), Sylvia Douglas (Founding Director, MsMissMrs), Hannah Green (Lived Experiences Specialist, Centre for Homelessness Impact) and Twimukye Mushak (Senior Fieldwork Development Officer, Poverty Alliance), this discussion explored how the framing of homelessness and public perceptions have changed since COVID-19. 

In the second launch of the day, Dr Beth Watts (Senior Research Fellow, Heriot-Watt University) unveiled important new research which aims to capture the scale and type of supported housing that is needed in Scotland, within a culture that remains open to choice, options and rights. 

Representatives from the Change Team, an inspiring group of people with personal and frontline experience of homelessness in Scotland, hosted the next session, with a special surprise especially for Safe As Houses delegates!

The Everyone Home Collective, Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder and the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness – along with input from delegates on the day – shared thoughts and ideas on what can we learn from those reaching across sectors and professional boundaries to make a collective impact. With the takeaway message that ending homelessness in Scotland is possible if we work together on what works and what matters, this inspiring session helped us to rethink how we move towards a new culture of collective leadership and impact.

The day – and conference – drew to a close with a unique and thought-provoking goodbye story from Ishbel Smith (Founder, Heart in Mouth). 

Across all three days of debate and deliberation, Safe as Houses provided an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the ongoing pandemic on housing and homelessness in Scotland. It has been a celebration of the extraordinary efforts across all areas – from colleagues on the frontline walking alongside people during the crisis, to policy makers shifting focus to protect people most at risk.

Crucially, it has also been a moment for us to come together to consider the aftermath of the pandemic and explore the challenges ahead – some new, some familiar – where we will need to sharpen our focus on housing supply and deepen our competence on inequality. We hope that you, like us, feel that across these three days we have laid the foundations of a shared understanding of how we can all move forward, together. 

Thank you to everyone who helped make the final day, and all three days, of Safe As Houses such a success. 

If you missed out, highlights and shared learning will be available on our social media channels over the coming weeks.