I Have Never Looked Back!

This week marks the first birthday of All in for Change! 

All in for Change wouldn’t be what it is today without the passion of the Change Team. It is their unique skills and personalities which drive the programme and influence change.

Alison Kennedy reflects on here experience of being part of this collaborative team:

In December 2019, I was successful in becoming a Change Lead for All in For Change after my manager suggested I would be a good addition to the team. My key skills include my ability to collaborate across housing, health and social care, addictions services, justice and the third sector. I am highly skilled at working outside and across traditional boundaries and always try to develop joined up approaches. I am naturally good at this as I am a positive, outgoing person with a down-to-earth nature that enables me to form effective relationships with a range of stakeholders. I am glad to say my skill set has been complimentary to the aims and vision of All in For Change and I am thankful I applied, and I have never looked back! I am passionate about working in homelessness services and about promoting a culture that embeds kindness, dignity and compassion. Since working in social services, I have developed better awareness of the shame, stigma and isolation that people who experience homelessness can feel and understand how important it is for us as a nation to be well-informed and well-trained in responding to trauma, addictions and mental ill-health. It is really exciting to be part of a group of people who are on the same page and be involved in something where I can work with others who share my passion to effect real change.

Being a Change Leadhas been such a fantastic opportunity to begin to build relationships with people  who have lived experience of homelessness and who work in homelessness and to join forces to influence policy and strategy and make strides in turning that into real change on the ground. It has been great working with people who share the same knowledge and understanding of the root causes and drivers of homelessness, and the importance of social connections in a persons’ life as well as an understanding as to how these relationships act as a mechanism to tackle and end the cycle of homelessness. It feels like we are in something together that has the potential to be worthwhile and bring about change.

One of the highlights of being a Change Lead has been the monthly retreats where we get together for the day to hash out of plan of action. Both the ones we managed to have in person in Falkirk and the subsequent ones online as a result of Covid have been excellent. I have been able to get to know people who have lived experience which has been profound and humbling. Now, I am continuing to build on the connections I have made and am excited to join forces with my fellow Change Leads. For example, William Wright from Shelter and I are collaborating to further improve our respective services and really show what joined up working is all about. I have also worked in partnership with Viki Fox from Cyrenians and the thought of how much more we can do together is refreshing and a real opportunity we can’t miss. Together, we have been able to break down so many of the usual barriers to effective joint working and work towards our shared goals which the Change Team has solidified.

I have had countless opportunities being a Change Lead, one of the biggest for me so far was being invited to speak alongside other professionals about the importance of relationships at the ‘Safe As Houses’ Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference in November which I absolutely loved and would recommend to anyone to get involved if the chance arises. There really is no better opportunity to be able to speak to others about what you are passionate about and what you bring to the table. For me, this is where I feel I have the biggest influence as people get the chance to hear what I have to say and can decide to get on board with me for real partnership working and collaboration.

BLOG: Time to Shelve the System?

Homeless Network Scotland has joined Mayday Trust, Changing Lives and Platfform in a UK-wide alliance that provides a place for those that live or work in a system they want to change. Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, blogs as part of the launch week.

When the supermarket shelves were run dry at the start of lockdown, it got me thinking for the first time about the systems and mechanisms that underpin the smooth running of big supermarkets. We had some time on our hands.

Customer demand drives what supermarkets provide, how much and how often. We are free to enter and leave with mutual benefit, having exercised choice over what we want. We don’t really see or feel those systems or give them much thought – because they largely work for us. But at the start of the year, the supermarket systems didn’t (couldn’t) respond with enough flexibility, and for a moment it affected us all.

An unseen system that bends flexibly to what people want is exactly what this New System Alliance wants for people going through their toughest times. We need to put lives first – and build systems around them. Because when we do it the other way – try to fit people to services – the system becomes inefficient, it perpetuates the worst parts of itself and enforces its norms to survive. And this means people get overlooked, or segregated, damaged by their experience – or just opt out altogether.

We all see when it works well, which is why we can see when it doesn’t. For most of us living and working within these systems, we know it doesn’t always build from what works – and often forgets what matters. Too often the entry point becomes the same label stuck on us – mental health, addictions, offender, rough sleeper, vulnerable, challenging, complex, chaotic. And a labyrinth of services and systems, of policies and procedures, of rules and regulations. It is a system unable to connect in a way that prevents people from falling through the gaps and which frustrates the people who want to help. And this waste of human potential – and expense of getting it wrong – affects us all.

So, what does a new system look like? What do we take and what do we shelve? The New System Alliance is a place to keep talking and to start building. For me, this change needs at the very least:

  • To really feature people – lots of people, the critical mass needed to create real and lasting change. Building from the magic ingredient of relationships, how we all connect and interact with each other – that people make systems, in all our different ways.
  • To value normality – home, community, safety, wellbeing, recognition, love. The most basic ingredients to build and live our lives, and what most people are trying to secure. Yet these are the very things that are most often removed or replaced with ‘professional’ alternatives when people really need them most.
  • To recognise the unfairness at the root of hard lives, which means some of us are much more likely than others to experience mental ill-health, addictions, homelessness, the justice system, trauma, abuse and violence.
  • To be preventative, anticipatory, flexible and responsive. A system that puts people first, with choice and control, and provides a soft cushion for people going through tough times, not a hard edge.
  • To build from what’s strong, rather than what’s wrong. Without segregating people from their communities, trying to ‘fix’ or patronise adults – and without driving a wedge of difference and distance between all our connected lives.

The pandemic has created the opportunity to think and act big. In Scotland, there is already a determined policy environment – some of the most progressive voices in the drive for big systems-change are coming from within national and local government and across the health and social care service. But we need more help to convert that radical big thinking into real change on the ground and create together a better, fairer, experience for everyone.

More at www.newsystemalliance.org or drop us a line at hello@homelessnetwork.scot

Duncan: New skills and a huge boost

My name is Duncan.

I joined GHIFT in 2016 when we started planning an event in the style of a conversation cafe to understand the experiences of people using homelessness services in Glasgow, including some of the barriers and challenges they face. Most of the work I have been involved in has focussed on visiting homeless services in and around Glasgow, talking to people using these services about what works and what doesn’t, so that we can use the information to improve on the positive elements as well as trying to eradicate the negatives. 

Since my initial volunteer roles within Homeless Network Scotland I have come to realise the input from people with lived experience is as valid and useful as any academic point of view, if not even more valuable because it is based on experience that comes from having been there and done that. You may have the best education money can buy, but you can’t buy that experience. 

Being part of the team that helped to select the services who would become the Glasgow Alliance to End homelessness was a particularly positive experience for me. Learning about how tender processes work with GANTT charts and spreadsheets, and being part of the actual interview process was not only informative, being involved in making such a valuable contribution to ending homelessness in Glasgow has given a huge boost to my self-worth and self-esteem.

The pandemic and lockdown have been challenging as we’ve had to convert to doing almost everything online. I miss the human contact and being able to engage face to face with people to hear their stories, but with the equipment and support I need to get online being provided through Homeless Network Scotland I have managed to gain some new skills that have allowed me to continue getting involved digitally. 

Working with GHIFT has helped improve and build on my skills for work as well as the opportunity to prevent other people having to go through the difficulties I had to experience when I was homelessness myself. 

Making a positive impact on eradicating homelessness was my main objective for getting involved and being part of the GHIFT group has given me the perfect platform to achieve this.

Jeremy: Coproduction, an equal voice and equal say

For those experiencing homelessness, the idea of not knowing when they might get their own home was hard enough…and then COVID come and along halted the world, and what was already unknown became even more unknown. 

The ball was already rolling on improving things in Glasgow before the pandemic: Housing First was being implemented, benefiting those most in need of extra support after being given permanent accommodation; workers and volunteers like myself were out gathering information from services and the people using them, offering advocacy to those who felt like they had no voice, speaking to people about their options and providing much-needed advice to people using homelessness services; information about our experiences of homelessness was being provided to researches who would come into the office and learn from us; and, most importantly, members of Glasgow Homelessness Involvement Feedback Team (GHIFT) with lived experience of homelessness like myself were given an equal voice and equal say as part of the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness. 

Today, I am still lucky to be involved in many aspects of GHIFT. We hold weekly discussions (online now), providing information and opportunities that we can still be involved in. Despite the pandemic making things more difficult, our main aim – to help reduce and eventually end homelessness – is still in progress.

Through GHIFT there are lots of options for ways to get involved but I personally like the hands-on work: going out there into hotels, hostels and refuges gathering info, talking to those who perhaps haven’t had a normal conversation with someone during a time when people are already socially isolated, and working with the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness, the Council and other agencies to use the information we find out to improve things for everyone experiencing homelessness in Glasgow.  

At the moment it’s hard to look a month ahead but I’m sure the future, post-COVID, will be bright for GHIFT and the ball will be rolling even faster than it was. I’m looking forward to being back in the office sharing a table with the rest of the team, brainstorming ideas and making sure that the voices of people with lived experiences of homelessness are included in all of the work to end homelessness in Glasgow. 

Jeremy (GHIFT)

David: 30 Years of Coproduction

Back in the 90s one of my friends had attended a homeless conferences hosted by Groundswell in London. Hearing about this grassroots movement who were advocating that change was possible, but that people experiencing homelessness had to be the vehicle of that change caught my imagination. I began to organise a speak out event in Edinburgh and simultaneously set up the Homeless Users Group Edinburgh (HUGE).

During this period of my life, my circumstances were bleak. I was starting my second decade of rough sleeping, I was using large amounts of drugs and very few services would entertain me because  of the chaos and violence in my life. 

The speak out event raised awareness of our radical challenge to the principles underpinning service provision in Edinburgh, but otherwise accomplished very little. 

The HUGE group, on the other hand, started to work with the commissioner of homeless services at Edinburgh Council to radically overhaul hostel provision. We consulted rough sleepers across the city on the barriers they had experienced in accessing hostels. Armed with this information, the council did everything they could to recommission services, with a particular emphasis on the old Leith House which was turned into the Dunedin Harbour. 

This early involvement and co-production activity gave me a sense of purpose. This led to an end to the chaos, violence and drugs in my life and, eventually, to a job. 

I lived happily until becoming homeless again in 2017, which led to me connecting with Glasgow Homelessness Networks GHIFT group about a year later. At first I was sceptical that it was more of the top-down user involvement I had advocated against in the past, but when we started work on the commissioning process for the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness with Glasgow Health And Social Care Partnership, it became clear that this was a real opportunity to have equal input and create lasting change. 

Along with other members of GHIFT, I went on to decide, as equal members of the commissioning team, who would become the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness. Through a lengthy process lasting nearly 6 months, but now that the Alliance is in place, I work alongside the winning group as an equal member of the Alliance Leadership Team, making decisions that will help us work towards ending homelessness in the city.   

David (GHIFT)