Christmas comes early for Gorbals & Pollok communities with £200,000 Lottery ‘win’

Grassroots community organisations in the Gorbals and Pollok areas of Glasgow have received £200,000 from Homeless Network Scotland thanks to a National Lottery Community Fund project which is designed to prevent homelessness in communities in Glasgow. The decision about what organisations received the funding was made by a panel of local people in each community.

The ‘Staying In’ project is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, with Homeless Network Scotland and partners Unity and SCDC, joining local people and organisations on a panel to allocate funding based on innovative ideas and solutions to prevent homelessness where it starts – in communities – using a ‘place based’ model.

A place-based approach goes local, recognising that within a community there are existing resources, skills and a willingness to solve the issues experienced by people who live there.

Diaspora African Women Support Network (DAWSUN) received £34,800 to support vulnerable families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless. The drop in at the Adelphi Centre in Gorbals will be open twice a week for service users and will be a community-based early intervention program to help individuals who are at-risk of becoming homeless.

Dr Chioma Nwafur, Executive Director, Diaspora African Women Support Network (DAWSUN), said: “The ‘Staying In’ Gorbals funding has allowed us to provide wrap-around support for Ethnic minority families at risk of homelessness before they present as homeless. Our homelessness intervention hub is open on Thursdays and Fridays. The majority of families are asylum seekers, refugees and ethnic minorities who speak very little English, struggling with the challenges of overcrowding, squatting, low income and troubles with neighbours. The funding meant that DAWSUN could assign them individual caseworkers and teach English.”

SWAMP in Pollok is a Community Development Trust and charity, using training, outreach, film, music, digital technologies, gardening and the creative arts to bring about change. They received £45,000 from the fund.

Andy Peline from SWAMP said: “As a community-led development trust we understand our community and are well placed to address many of the issues within it. However, the hardest part is securing the resources to tackle local priorities. Thanks to the support of the National Lottery Community Fund, we will be in a better position to create local employment opportunities and directly address the causes of homelessness within our community. We plan to test a wraparound service that will not only remove the threat of eviction but will also support people to manage their tenancies in the future.”

Preventing homelessness is made easier by circumstances such as access to adequate income or some savings, positive relationships, social networks and support or advice, advocacy and information about available services. The ‘Staying In’ programme is about helping people to stay in their area if they are at risk of homelessness.

John Edmiston, Area Housing Manager with New Gorbals Housing Association, which received £40,000 funding, said: “This fund is to target and support people who might be at risk of homelessness or who have come from homelessness. For people who have that experience one of the biggest problems in a new flat is the lack of essential items and utilities everybody needs to set up and maintain a comfortable home.

“We’ll provide essential home items such as flooring, seating, beds, bedding, microwaves and window blinds as well as support with the first month’s food shop and initial gas and electricity payment. Thanks to this Lottery funding we have been able to develop our idea to help new tenants at risk of, or who have experienced, homelessness to remain in the local Gorbals community or settle in here.”

The National Lottery Community Fund’s Scotland Chair, Kate Still, said: “When we announced this package of funding back in June 2019, we hoped that it would support a wider change across the sector and support organisations to work more collaboratively to address the issue of homelessness in Glasgow.  I am delighted that, some two and a half years later, the first awards are being announced from the Community Trailblazers programme and that National Lottery funding will have such a lasting and positive impact.”

David Ramsay, Change Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, helped to facilitate the scheme and also grew up in Pollok. David said: “The best way to end homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place. This was close to my heart because of my ties to the area, I have seen so many situations where people had to move away from family networks and friends because of homelessness. We must help people stay in their communities where the right support is available.”

Ruth Whatling joins Homeless Network Scotland

Homeless Network Scotland welcomes Ruth Whatling to our Leadership Team this week in the role of Head of Policy & Equality, a newly created post that speaks to a growing awareness and importance placed on equality considerations in ending homelessness in Scotland.

Ruth joins Homelessness Network Scotland on a two-year secondment from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Team and with two decades of public sector experience including equality, policy and public administration roles in the Civil Service.

Originally from near Reading in Berkshire, with close family connections to Edinburgh, Ruth trained as a nurse in Hull before working in nursing in London then later relocating to Scotland.

Ruth says: “Having seen the work of Homeless Network Scotland from an external perspective, I am excited to see up close the collaborative way of working that the organisation is known and respected for – finding a way through those tough, obstinate problems that get in the way of what works. When interacting as a civil servant there is often a feeling that a power imbalance exists, whether real or perceived. Engaging with our membership and partners at eye-level is something I am really looking forward to.

“One of the attributes Homeless Network Scotland possesses is credibility and trust, a reputation for delivering that incentivises partner organisations and others to engage and participate to find solutions. The leading role of lived experience in informing and guiding Homeless Network Scotland’s work also impressed me. It is clear that expertise by experience sits at the heart of everything we do in a really meaningful way.”

Ruth is going to be actively involved in the work to scale up Housing First in Scotland, the first part of the UK to roll out the approach as a national policy. Starting in the New Year a check-up process will support local authorities to embed the policy in their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans.

Building on the Prevention Review Group report and new public sector prevention duties another focus will be the increasingly high-profile prevention agenda, which is a key strand of work for Homeless Network Scotland, local authorities and third sector organisations. “Prevention and equality share a characteristic, both must be applied while also doing the day job,” says Ruth. “We can’t switch to real equality overnight. Despite a robust legislative framework, attitudes must change; practice must adapt and improve. Similarly, prioritising prevention rather than responding to a problem after it has happened is a process. Frontline workers must continue to respond while simultaneously shifting focus to preventing homelessness before it starts. Part of our role is to support the great work already underway across the country by sharing learning and facilitating effective and meaningful partnerships.”

A key focus for Ruth is equality. Ruth said: “I am looking forward to supporting local authorities and partners understand what’s needed and what can be achieved when we all pull in one direction. The legislation is there, and part of the challenge is about illustrating what we mean by equality – what it looks like. We all have a role in breaking the ‘big’ issue down into smaller, manageable chunks that really mean something to people in ordinary workplace settings – it is not an abstract idea. True equality is about understanding people’s needs as an individual and having a vision of how to meet those needs in the way we provide services and address disadvantage.”

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.

Prevent homelessness closer to home in 2021

Amid growing concern about the impact of Covid on the housing and financial situation of thousands of Scots, 31 organisations in the Everyone Home collective are urging people in communities and those running local services to prevent homelessness closer to home this year, and beyond.

On the basis that all homelessness starts in a community, Everyone Home, which includes charities and leading academics, has published a detailed Route Map to protect people’s housing in communities across Scotland.

With this increased focus on prevention, the collective is appealing to health professionals, community planning partnerships, community councils, local authorities and grass roots services, groups and networks to inspire local conversations in 2021 aimed at preventing homelessness before it starts.

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

“In 2021 there will be more pressure on people’s finances, our relationships and our coping strategies due to the pandemic. These are also the circumstances that can create homelessness, at a time when frontline services are pushed to the brink. All homelessness starts in a community – communities also host many brilliant local groups and services that could reach and support people earlier, and closer to home. Local conversations that simply ‘ask about housing’ can reduce stress and worry and help improve people’s housing situation before it escalates into homelessness.”

This latest Route Map, the fourth to be produced by Everyone Home since the collective was launched in May, identifies the factors that increase the chance of homelessness and the protecting factors that can help prevent it. The collective is inviting more local conversations with two clear objectives:

  • Ask about housing when people you connect with or provide a service to have money worries or problems at home, ask about housing and listen to what would help.
  • Act on what people tell you make introductions to local advice and support services and encourage people to get help. The quicker people act, the more chance there is of preventing homelessness.

Ewan Aitken, Chief executive of Cyrenians, said:

“It’s not right that people have had to go through the experience of homelessness before getting the support they need. We can do better.  As well as universal measures such as a strong social security net, we should not understate the importance of relationships in preventing homelessness. Prevention at a local level is key. By empowering local communities and delivering accessible relationship-based services in ordinary settings which do not feel like ‘interventions’ we can prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.”

Deborah Hay, Scotland Policy officer at Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“We all need a warm, secure, home we can afford – this year has emphasised that more than ever. The pandemic has intensified the pressures facing low-income households, already struggling to keep their heads above water. At JRF we are deeply concerned that the growing economic storm will pull more people under by increasing the sort of pressures that can tip people into homelessness. But we can prevent homelessness by boosting the supply of social housing, agreeing a just approach to addressing rent arrears and by making homelessness prevention an urgent, shared priority for all local services. Working together we can identify people at risk early and get the right support in place quickly.”

Kate Polson, Chief executive of Rock Trust, said:

“At the Rock Trust we work with teachers, families and youth workers to enable them to identify and access the support and information required to prevent youth homelessness. Communities are the key to preventing homelessness as they aren’t just the place we live but they are the people we see daily. We need to think of homelessness as more than a housing issue, it’s a family, health, education and employment issue and we need to work together across communities to prevent it.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief executive of Crisis, said:

“It’s clear that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it happening in the first place. This route-map from the Everyone Home Collective is a timely reminder that while homelessness starts in the community, the solutions for addressing it lie there too.  Homelessness isn’t inevitable – that’s why we want to make preventing homelessness a national priority. We must all work together to support people at risk of homelessness to stay in their homes or to find a safe, secure, settled home when they need it. Through joined-up services, rooted in local communities, we can make sure that when homelessness does happen, it is brief, and that it doesn’t happen again.”