Choice and options in homeless response

Scotland’s annual conference looking in detail at the causes of and solutions to homelessness takes place next week from 5 – 7 October. The theme of choice runs through this year’s varied programme covering topics from the housing we want to live in, to the area we want to settle and the support we want to tap into as Covid continues to have an impact on housing and support services. 

Guest speakers at this year’s event include Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing & Local Government; Professor Ruth Chang from The University of Oxford; Dr Martin Kettle, Glasgow Caledonian University; Pat Togher, Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership and Dr Beth Watts, I-SPHERE at Heriot Watt University. The online format using the Remo platform allows Dr Andrew Clarke and Professor Cameron Parsell from The University of Queensland, Australia, to join the event, co-authors of the recently published book ‘Charity and Poverty in Advanced Welfare States.’ 

The conference addresses three questions that will really matter in 2022. 

  • How can we ensure that real-world options match the policy ambition? 
  • How do people exercise choice and control when options are sometimes limited?  
  • How do we enable informed choices, not enable others to make choices for us? 

Professor Ruth Chang’s research on choice and decision-making has been profiled by media outlets internationally. Ruth has also given lectures or been a consultant to industry and academia on this theme. Professor Chang said: 

“Making good choices is not a matter of being expert at discovering the pros and cons of the options before you. If you had a crystal ball and could know the possible futures corresponding to your options, you would still not have the critical tool for making good decisions. What is required instead is the ability to commit, to put yourself behind something. That’s how we can move forward in hard choices and make ourselves who we are.” 

On Tuesday 5 October, journalist Kirsteen Paterson, a 2021 Scottish Press Awards nominee for coverage of immigration issues, interviews Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, as he reflects on current events, his own journey from Afghanistan and what a fairer way forward in Scotland would look like. This session is presented in association with The National newspaper. 

On day two the choice is yours, with three interactive breakout rooms exploring choice in support led by Dr David McCartney, Clinical Lead, LEAP, NHS Lothian; Robin Johnson, Founder and Editor of PIElink; Rankin Barr & Frank Reilly from Simon Community Scotland. Also on day two, Pat Togher, Assistant Chief Officer Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, looks at how cities are planning their recovery from a unique set of homelessness challenges experienced during the pandemic. 

Wrapping up the conference on day three is, Freedom of Choice? Choice Informed By Trauma Awareness, a panel session that offers insights and stories about how personal choice is viewed by those in authority within the criminal justice system and demonstrates how an understanding of the impact of trauma for those dealing with the reality of addiction and homelessness can change minds and outcomes. Hosted by Ishbel Smith of Heart In Mouth, conversationalists will include Iain Smith (Scottish Lawyer of the Year 2020) and James Docherty and Kirsty Giles of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit

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

“Choice is the core principle that will lead us through current dilemmas and debates about what options are ‘right’ for whom, and in which circumstances. But informed choice is key – people with a housing concern or crisis need access to the right information, and for some a bit of advice and advocacy too.  

“We work closely with partners to prepare this annual event and work hard to make sure it reflects the moment. We look forward to welcoming you, to learn from the previous 12 months and shape the year ahead.” 

Two key pieces of research will be launched at the conference. On Tuesday 5 October the much-anticipated report, Shared Spaces, looks at the future role of supported and shared housing as a response to homelessness in Scotland. This is presented by the report author, Anna Evans, Director at Indigo House along with chair of the research advisory group, Dr Beth Watts, Senior Research Fellow, I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University.  

The following day, Wednesday 6 October, the launch of the Homelessness Monitor is hosted by Crisis. The Homelessness Monitor provides an independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments. A panel discussion will be chaired by the Chief Executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, including a presentation of findings by Heriot Watt University followed by a Q&A with Maggie Brünjes CEO of Homeless Network Scotland, Catriona MacKean of the Scottish Government and John Mills of ALACHO. 

Delegates will benefit from specialist conference platform, Remo – which takes online events to a new level. Remo enables greater interaction, with table-to-table networking and the freedom to roam and join spontaneous conversations in the ‘room’. 

Booking for the conference can be made online here, more information and the full programme is available at this link. There’s also still time to be associated with Scotland’s annual homelessness conference highlighting your organisation as an exhibitor or sponsor. More information here on the Homeless Network Scotland website. 

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.