A small organisation making a big impact

A busy first half of 2021 for Homeless Network Scotland included hosting the sector’s largest gatherings online, expansion of All In For Change – Scotland’s lived experience experts – and consolidation of the Everyone Home Collective, which now includes more than 30 third sector and academic organisations concerned about homelessness.

Homeless Network Scotland is a knowledge-based membership organisation. As a network, it creates opportunities to connect, learn and act on homelessness to end it for good. The organisation’s latest Impact Report sets out it’s work in the first half of this year. Priority issues in the report include what’s needed to end destitution among people with no recourse to public funds; the future role of supported housing as part of our homelessness response; taking a place-based approach to preventing homelessness and supporting Scotland to scale up Housing First.

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

“During the first half of this year it has been our privilege to be a support-act for a remarkable sector that has continued to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on people, including enabling a successful vaccination roll-out programme across services. And to provide a platform for people who can draw on their first-hand experience of homelessness to advise on what works, what really matters and what happens next.”

Important highlights in the first half of the year included:

  • Building on the success of last year’s Staying In fund, when they distributed £100,000 directly to 1,000 people experiencing homelessness, Homeless Network Scotland worked with the Scottish Government homelessness unit to get cash directly into the hands of people living in temporary accommodation through a £50,000 winter support fund.
  • 400 people registered for the Branching Out conference in March. Over 100 people took part in two online Members Events, one focused on preventing a return to rough sleeping and the other considering the future of supported housing.
  • Following the publication of the Everyone Home Collective’s route map on ending destitution and protecting human rights, Homeless Network Scotland has worked with key partners to design a new gateway to a safe destination, support and advice for people with no recourse to public funds, preparing to launch later this year.
  • Publication of the National Housing First Framework, a blueprint for all areas starting up or scaling up Housing First in Scotland. In the transition from year two to year three of Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder 129 people moved into their own Housing First tenancy between January and June 2021, a 54% increase compared to the same period in 2020. Prior to the Scottish elections, Homelessness Network Scotland worked with partners and politicians to secure cross-party support for Housing First in the new parliament.
  • Expansion of All In For Change with recruitment of an additional 14 Change Leads. The Change Team all have lived and frontline experience of homelessness and are contributing to the updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan following the new recommendations from the reconvened Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, bridging the gap between policy and action on the ground.
  • Launch of The Learning Lounge, a specially curated programme of learning and training events for organisations across Scotland. This programme reached three-times as many people than the same period last year, with 135 people from 56 organisations attending 11 courses covering six key topics.

Homeless Network Scotland has just announced dates for its autumn conference from 5-7 October 2021 based around the theme of choice. The Conference will consider what it will take to ensure that people facing homelessness have choice and real options. More details will be available in the coming weeks.

The Prevention Commission’s final report published

The Prevention Commission – people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness and members of the All in for Change Team – have been working together for nine months to help design new legal duties to prevent homelessness in Scotland. 

Through their meetings they have come together to share our wide range of experiences to support the work of the Prevention Review Group, which will make a series of crucial recommendations to the Scottish Government about new homelessness prevention laws. 

As a Commission we have prioritised an approach to prevention that: 

  • Is built on asking people what they need and acting on it, striking the best possible balance between housing security and housing choice  
  • Looks to re-establish homelessness services as a true safety net for emergencies that can’t be prevented 
  • And ensures duties to prevent homelessness are shared across Local Authorities, Housing Providers, and Health and Social Care bodies. 

Being involved in the Commission was exciting and challenging for everyone involved and members of the Commission were delighted to have directly influenced the work of the Review Group. 

All of the Commission’s reports are available to read on the Homeless Network Scotland website, and you can read their final report here.

Our Impact: Connect, Learn & Act on Homelessness

Our latest Impact Report sets out the work undertaken by Homeless Network Scotland in the first half of 2020. It goes without saying that the circumstances over the spring and early summer were exceptional. We entered the year with a clear focus on our priorities but by March, like everyone, we faced the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown.

The realities of the public health crisis have already made us reassess our understanding of what it is possible to achieve in terms of ending homelessness in Scotland – and shown how quickly that can be achieved. It also brought into focus what Homeless Network Scotland can continue to contribute under such challenging circumstances – to create, contribute to and maintain positive impact.

In the months to come, going into autumn and then winter, the challenge is to accurately assess how to maintain some of the positive progress that has been made so far, while protecting the principles that underpin Scotland’s approach to ending homelessness, and must now guide our next steps.

In common with everyone who has been fortunate to continue working throughout the lockdown, our team has learned how to make the most of digital technology, hosting webinars and communicating regularly [with] through social media while making improvements to our digital presence and ensuring that this technology is the best that it can be in these times of remote working.

This, and other organisational learning amassed over the period will play an important role in the ways in which we connect, learn, and act alongside others to increase our collective impact going forward. We hope you enjoy looking over this Impact Report for the first six months of 2020 and trust you will contact Homeless Network Scotland with any ideas or inspiration you take from it.

A bigger ambition to end destitution in Scotland

Twenty-eight influential charity and academic sector organisations working to end homelessness will start consulting from Monday (17 August) on the second in a series of Route Maps designed to permanently end rough sleeping and destitution (1) in Scotland as the country emerges from the pandemic.

The Collective, named Everyone Home, includes many household names and respected organisations working to end homelessness in all parts of the country. Together, they have agreed a ‘triple-lock’ of measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on homelessness with:

  • more homes
  • no return to rough sleeping
  • no evictions into homelessness. 

The second Route Map considers issues facing people who do not have access to the welfare benefits and housing options that are available normally in Scotland for people at risk of homelessness. This is described as having ‘no recourse to public funds’ and most commonly affects people seeking asylum; those appealing decisions are most affected, with around 50% of appeals subsequently upheld. Some EEA nationals without settled status are also at risk of destitution and homelessness because they cannot access some help and benefits.

There are around 1,600 destitute asylum (2) migrants in Scotland, of whom around half are in Glasgow. A further group of 2,050 destitute EEA migrants in Scotland are also at severe risk of destitution. 

Chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), Sabir Zazai, said:

“People in the asylum system are forced into destitution due to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy, a deliberate decision by the Home Office. Today’s Route Map provides a clear solution to prevent destitution. It is essential that the issues facing people with NRPF are part of mainstream housing policy. For Scotland to eliminate rough sleeping, everyone, no matter their immigration status, must be protected and have access to a safe place to stay. Scotland has a proud history of welcoming and supporting people. This route map is an important step in working towards an even better future for people seeking safety in this country.”

The Route Map explains in detail how people in Scotland are destitute as a direct result of UK legislation. This can mean little or no money to meet basic needs, such as food, medicine or access to washing facilities. Having no recourse to public funds is for most people a temporary experience but can be the catalyst for poor mental health, rough sleeping and physical or sexual abuse. The Route Map aims to mitigate the damaging impact of that experience until their status is legally resolved or reconnection with a person’s country of origin is made, with a forward plan in place to ensure destitution is not experienced in another place.

UNESCO Chair: Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, Alison Phipps OBE, said:

“There has now been over a decade of academic research, third and public sector commissioning and substantial activism with regard to the critical levels of destitution affecting a range of populations in Scotland. The death rates attributable to destitution and poverty are rising and well-documented. The voluntary sector is stretched to the limit financially and emotionally. This report from the Collective is timely and urgently needed.

“It is time to value the analyses and to implement the deep structural change which will move vulnerable populations out of repeated crisis, and volunteers and workers out of emergency response mode. I am delighted to endorse its findings and energised by its calls to action.”

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

“When the pandemic began to unfold in March rapid emergency support was provided to everyone who was destitute regardless of their immigration status. As we move into autumn there is a significant risk of people once again being forced onto the streets or into unsafe living arrangements, experiencing extreme poverty and at risk of exploitation and abuse – all the problems we were trying to deal with previously. 

“It doesn’t have to be that way. The response earlier in the year demonstrated that ‘destitution by design’ is unnecessary and there is now lower tolerance for, and higher ambition to end, this situation in Scotland. This is the time to act and put in place measures that will make sure no one experiences destitution in Scotland as emergency measures are lifted.”

From Monday (17 August) to the end of September Everyone Home is consulting widely on this Route Map. Anyone wishing to comment or contribute to the document can contact: hello@everyonehome.scot  or telephone 0141 420 7272 and/or join the conversation on social media at #EveryoneHome – more information at www.everyonehome.scot 

First Route Map from Everyone Home Collective

Night shelters and hotel rooms as a response to homelessness will be actively designed out over the next phase according to plans published today by the Everyone Home Collective. The plans will feed into Scottish and local Government thinking as the country moves out of lockdown and considers the future of night shelter and hotel accommodation along with other issues around homelessness policy.

The Route Map can be viewed here at the Everyone Home website along with further information about the work of the Collective and other plans over the coming weeks and months. Keep up to date with the latest thinking and publications using #EveryoneHome on social media.

Night shelters currently operate in Edinburgh, delivered by Bethany Christian Trust since 1996, and in Glasgow delivered by Glasgow City Mission since 2010.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised both health and practical considerations for charities providing this type of accommodation. This is especially true for dormitory-style shelters.

Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “This has been a priority issue for the Collective so I want to thank everyone involved in pulling together this important Route Map, and the organisations running shelters for their leadership and expertise in reaching an agreement that will work.

“The Collective have agreed to modify provision later this year to take into account social distancing and ensure the safety of guests and staff, aiming to make sure shelter is provided for all those who need it. The Route Map sets out our objective to phase out this type of provision, and in the meantime have it act as a reception centre for Housing First and other rapid rehousing options.”