Author Archives: homesforcathy

About homesforcathy

Administered by Hightown HA. Homes for Cathy is a national alliance of housing associations, that have come together to end homelessness.

Cross Keys Homes’ rough sleeper scheme proves how intensive support can transform lives

A joint two year project between Cross Keys Homes (CKH) and Peterborough City Council has enabled rough sleepers in the city to quickly access the highest levels of support so they can transition from life on the street into sustained accommodation. Homes for Cathy spoke to Cross Keys Homes’ Assistant Director, Housing Needs, Ali Manji, to learn more about how their Rough Sleepers Floating Support Initiative has helped to transform the lives of people with complex needs.

How did the scheme come about?

Back in 2019, Peterborough City Council partnered with CKH to bid for Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) government funding to provide a dedicated floating support worker in Peterborough for rough sleepers. This was awarded for a one-year period and was extended until March 2021 due to the success of the scheme. The floating support worker was managed solely by CKH and helped to provide temporary accommodation to rough sleepers, as well as the one-to-one support required to establish a helpful, positive, and constructive relationship, mapping a clear pathway into more permanent accommodation. 

Referrals were made by Peterborough City Council’s housing needs officers using the following criteria for rough sleepers:

•             Required support to start and maintain their tenancy; 

•             Had no other support in place to sustain their accommodation; and

•             A willingness to engage with the support service.

What type of support was offered?

Alongside sustaining tenancies, it was recognised that there was a need to help individuals access services for their health including substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as reconnect with family members and back into society, and help them to overcome the many other challenges they faced. Intensive support was offered delivering targeted tenancy-focused intervention, via direct work and signposting. This included taking clients to pre-booked appointments, helping them to engage with other agencies to build upon their skills, and empowering and enabling individuals to develop independently and become responsible tenants in the long-term.

What did you learn from running the scheme?

During the two-year project, successful multi-agency work with reliable contacts and good working relationships were formed, which were essential to the success of this scheme. Thanks to this initiative, CKH have now adopted many of these principles internally to ensure rough sleepers who sign up for a CKH tenancy receive the dedicated ongoing one-to-one support they require to maintain their tenancy and overcome any challenges they face.

The average days of involvement with each client during this two-year initiative was 106. This ranged from the shortest at 18 days (prison recall) to the longest at 339 days.


Case study – Supporting a former rough sleeper with dementia to access a retirement living scheme

(from CKH’s floating support worker case notes)

A referral was received from Peterborough City Council’s Outreach team for TR, a 65 year old man who was found rough sleeping in the centre of town after a relationship breakdown.  TR had been in hospital and was discharged without a forwarding address, so the Outreach team arranged temporary bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation for him.

I first met with TR at the Garden House – a support base offering information, advice and support to rough sleepers. TR was suffering from early onset dementia. He had been accepted for a retirement housing property at a retirement living scheme, however the property he was moving into was unfurnished. TR was worried about moving, about how he would be able to make it a home, pay for household items and sort out his bills. I reassured him that I would be his dedicated support worker who would be able to help him with all these concerns and would accompany him to his new property to sign his tenancy and get the keys.

On our next contact we met with his scheme manager at the retirement property to sign his new tenancy. There were a lot of documents that TR had to go through and understand. TR was distressed as he was not retaining the information provided, so I went through the documents with him and broke the information down into bitesize points which he could understand more clearly. TR was concerned that the property was not something that he was able to afford so I spent the next hour with him making a list of outgoings that would need to be addressed with my help. When I returned TR to the B&B, I advised that I would be back the next day to move what little he had into his new home. TR seemed excited that he had his keys but also quite apprehensive about the thought of managing a home on his own.

TR moved into his property several days later, after I had arranged for a bed, chair, bedding, fridge freezer and microwave to be delivered.

Over the new few weeks, I had frequent calls from him regarding the list of things he needed to do. However, he was excited that he was able to get some decorating items from his new landlord and was about to paint the living room with his friend. During this time, I was able to collect and deliver more donated items for him including wardrobes and a bedside table, which helped to turn his house into a proper home. His new landlord also agreed to purchase a new cooker and have it installed.

During our next appointment, we were joined by an advisor from Housing Benefit who assessed TR and confirmed that his rent and standing charge would be covered by Housing Benefit and, whilst TR waited for his next Universal Credit payment, I provided him with a food bank voucher to help.

TR was now feeling much better and more in control knowing that he could afford to live in his home. I advised him that we needed to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) due to his mobility issues and his early onset dementia. TR was happy to do this, and work began to obtain this extra living cost for him, as well as help to apply for affordable tariffs to pay for his water, gas and electricity bills. 

Unfortunately, at this time lockdown occurred and I was unable to visit TR in person. Instead, I relied solely on the telephone updates from his scheme manager. TR was very hard to contact during this time but when I eventually managed to reach him, he informed me that he had been coping well. Lockdown had forced him to connect with his neighbours and they had been bringing him items of food. TR also informed me that he had been frequently having falls but could not get hold of his GP. I reminded him that he had his LifeLine (alarm pendant) which he needed to wear in case he had another fall. I contacted the scheme manager and asked if TR could be contacted by LifeLine every other day to ensure his safety.

TR completed his PIP interview by himself during lockdown and was awarded the extra living cost benefit. He had also been updating his budget planner and going through this each week with me during our now regular phone call catch ups.

When I was able to visit TR in person in August, we sat outside. TR advised me that his falls were increasing, that he had lumps on his skin, and he had cut his finger but did not realise. I made an emergency appointment for him with his GP. I met him at the surgery the next day and he asked me to join him for the consultation. TR had very low blood pressure and a few days later was admitted to hospital.

TR was put on appropriate medication and his memory improved. When I next visited him he was feeling much better and informed me that all his utility bills were up to date and he was continuing with his budget plan. He realised that during lockdown he had made a few bad health choices which led to him being admitted to hospital and didn’t want this to happen to him again.

I advised TR that I would call him every two weeks until the end of November given his accomplishments to date. This would ensure that he had his Warm Homes discount in place and then afterwards I would reduce contact to once a month until March. This was to ensure that he was still getting the help he required from his GP’s surgery, his retirement housing scheme and that he was keeping up to date with his utility bills but also enabled him to become even more independent in sustaining his tenancy by himself.

At the end of this period, I did not feel that TR required any further assistance. He was coping well on his own and managing all aspects of his tenancy.  And still to this day, TR continues to be very happy and settled in his home at the retirement living scheme.


Cross Keys Homes is a commercial business with a social heart, managing 11,000 properties across the East of England for social housing, shared ownership, private rent and leasehold.

The value of cross-sector collaboration to improve health outcomes for homeless people

The link between homelessness and poor health is well documented, with data indicating that the number of A&E visits and hospital admissions per homeless person is four times higher than for the general public.  But what part can housing associations play in breaking that link?

Homes for Cathy recently caught up with Rebecca Whittle, Neighbourhoods Strategic Lead at ForHousing, to find out more about its new housing-led ‘Homeless Discharge Support’ pilot, a collaborative project with Salford Primary Care Together (SPCT), Salford City Council, Greater Manchester Housing and Social Care Partnership and Greater Manchester Mental Health Service that aims to improve health outcomes for rough sleepers leaving hospital.

There’s clear evidence that good quality housing is not only critical for good health but also reduces demand for NHS services, so it’s great to see an example of joined up working between housing and health providers. How did the partnership with SPCT come about?

The initial idea came from discussions with the GP Clinical Lead for the SPCT Inclusion Service, Dr Wan-Ley Yeung, who provides a GP inclusion service for homeless patients within Salford.  We were both concerned that individuals were being discharged from hospital and weren’t engaging with ongoing medical treatment, because they were either returning to the streets or being placed into temporary accommodation which wasn’t wholly suitable given their on-going medical needs.  

We’re quite fortunate in Salford in terms of homelessness provision; Reducing homelessness is a priority for Salford City Council and they are very successful in attracting government funding to end homelessness, with lots of different initiatives in place to prevent people from having no option other than to sleep on the streets.  What’s important is that we make sure that the provision is suitable for all individuals.  In the past, people with no fixed abode and ongoing medical needs would have either been unable to be discharged from hospital, or picked up by the local authority and put in a provision that wasn’t entirely suitable for their ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation.

In partnership with SPCT and Salford City Council’s associated departments including adult social care, housing options and supported tenancies, we successfully applied for funding through Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) shared outcomes fund.  We were awarded approximately £450,000, which covers accommodation costs as well as a support element.

The whole concept is to take a test and learn approach to inform future commissioning and future service delivery, to ensure safe discharge from Salford Royal Hospital for those people that are either;

  • medically optimised  for discharge  but would be returning to the streets or
  •  going to accommodation that wouldn’t be able to meet their needs adequately or
  • For those who are medically fit for discharge but have ongoing health needs requiring further clinical support

How is the scheme working in practice?

ForHousing is the landlord and we are providing eight self-contained properties that are all accessible for individuals with mobility difficulties.  The aim is not only that individuals can be safe within that accommodation but that we can work closely with them for a greater chance of securing settled accommodation. Health, social care and housing services work closely in partnership to provide wrap around intensive support for each person to improve their health outcomes and also their life skills and tenancy skills, so they have more likelihood of being able to move on to more secure, permanent accommodation in the long term.

In terms of the support, there’s a dedicated housing support officer for the eight properties and they work alongside Salford City Council’s Supported Housing Service who provide two dedicated support workers to support the individuals both in this accommodation and in their future move on home.  The reason why we’ve taken that combined approach is we know it’s really important to have the engagement of housing options for move-on to suitable long-term housing.  They have access to a full range of accommodation, particularly if that individual has aspirations to move to a locality where ForHousing doesn’t have properties.

With regards to move-on, there’s a guiding principle of three months but all the partners are extremely committed to the fundamental principle that the service priority is about supporting individuals, so we won’t necessarily be working to timescales – ultimately we need to go at the individual’s own pace.  We’ve also been very clear from the outset that if a tenant moves into a property, develops a really good support network within the local community and is thriving where they are, we won’t uproot them to another area for long-term housing.  We’ll convert the accommodation into a general needs tenancy and identify another property to bring into the scheme.

Are there any particular barriers that you have had to overcome in setting up the scheme?

It’s still very early days but one difficulty has been around the availability of social care support in the community.  There have been situations where people were medically ready to be discharged, and we had a home available for them, but the care support wasn’t in place, so the person was effectively classified as a delayed discharge.  It’s for this reason that the pilot is being evaluated by King’s College London, in order to inform further research into the delays in hospital discharge that are occurring nationally.

The launch of integrated care systems (ICSs) in 2018 was intended to deepen the relationship between NHS, local councils and other strategic partners.  How easy has it been for you to get housing’s voice heard in local health commissioning?

For a number of years it’s been quite difficult for us to get engagement with health partners; it’s taken a lot of tenacity, banging on doors and literally turning up to every event possible saying ‘Hi, we’re here’.  Ultimately, this project has come about through our shared passion for supporting people.  SPCT recognises that, as an organisation, ForHousing is really committed to ending homelessness; consequently, they see us as an equal partner.  We’re open to exploring opportunities and taking risks, and because SPCT can see our passion, they’ve been happy to bring us along on the journey.

What advice would you give to other Homes for Cathy members seeking to forge stronger partnerships with their local health agencies?

As an organisation, ForHousing is quite bold in the way we articulate our ambition around wellbeing; social housing is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about improving people’s lives.  We’re not a housing association that gives people a set of keys and only contacts them when they need to pay their rent.  Because we articulate our vision and are prepared to take risks, other agencies such as health are willing to partner with us.  We’re also open to the fact that sometimes things won’t always work; the key is to learn and adapt from that.

Find out more about how the Discharge to Assess scheme has helped Tom here.


ForHousing is a progressive landlord that owns and manages more than 24,000 homes and delivers housing management services for other landlords across the North West.

Tackling migrant homelessness: A call for innovation and collaboration

Ahead of 2021 International Migrants Day on 18 December, Katie Fawcett and Paul Catterill, Network Development Coordinators at NACCOM, explain how the network supports housing associations to collaborate on innovative projects to prevent destitution among people seeking asylum in the UK

The potential for housing associations to play an important role in helping to end homelessness experienced by people under immigration control has always been an area of interest and exploration for NACCOM and our members.  In February 2020, before the world was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, we jointly hosted the Ending Migrant Homelessness conference in York with Crisis and Homes for Cathy.

Addressing Homes for Cathy’s eighth commitment

This provided a springboard for the development of a number of new relationships between housing associations and NACCOM members, working together through a joint desire to address homelessness in the asylum and immigration system and in many cases specifically to address the Homes for Cathy Commitment 8 “to contribute to ending migrant homelessness in areas where housing associations operate”.

Over the past year, data gathered through NACCOM’s annual members’ survey has revealed that 2,771 people were accommodated across the NACCOM network between April 2020 and June 2021. 1,503 (54%) of people were housed (NACCOM projects include housing, hosting and night shelters) across 363 properties, 37 (10%) of which were provided by 21 housing associations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including seven from Homes for Cathy members.

Accommodation models vary

Accommodation models vary and include difficult to let properties (because of size and bedroom tax) being converted to HMOs and made available rent-free specifically for the housing of people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).  In addition, there are new supported housing initiatives where newly granted refugees at risk of homelessness are housed, with the income generated enabling beds to be made available to people seeking asylum with NRPF whilst they are supported to regularise their immigration status.

Covid-19 has obviously created challenges to the momentum of this work, however in 2021, several further opportunities presented themselves to continue our collective efforts of raising awareness around destitution and homelessness in the asylum system and exploring ways that housing associations can make a positive impact.

Firstly, Homes for Cathy joined Bradford-based NACCOM member Hope Housing in delivering a Homelessness Summit to discuss ‘what next after Everyone In ends’. This was followed by an Ending Destitution event in Calderdale, working with another NACCOM member St Augustine’s to promote and explore partnership approaches for developing NRPF accommodation in the borough.

NACCOM’s Network Development team also presented at the Homes for Cathy ‘Ending Migrant Homelessness’ forum in September, which brought together over 61 housing associations, charities and other agencies to hear about innovative ideas and responses to accommodation solutions for people with NRPF.

Our collective work will continue in 2022 and will be an important consideration when NACCOM launches its new strategy in spring next year. Further challenges presented by the Nationality and Borders Bill and ongoing Covid-19 crisis will undoubtedly require innovative and collaborative responses from the sector to end homelessness for people in the asylum and immigration system, and we look forward to being part of the response.


NACCOM – the No Accommodation Network – is a charity committed to bringing an end to destitution amongst people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants with no recourse to public funds living in the UK, through promoting best practice and supporting the establishment of accommodation projects.  For more information, email office@naccom.org.uk.

We’re often told by housing associations that they deliver what we do already. Here’s why they don’t and how we bring value to their offer

Rebecca White, CEO and founder of Your Own Place, explains how partnering with an external tenancy training provider can amplify a housing association’s existing support offer to prevent homelessness

Your Own Place turned eight in October.  Both a huge milestone and a source of great pride.  What is often unseen beneath the veneer of glossy social media, is the knock backs, the failures, the disappointments and frustrations – especially when I’m told ‘we do that already’. 

We have grown modestly, safely and sustainably, partly out of choice and partly because what we do is hard, different, bespoke, time-consuming and we’ve an unwavering commitment to doing it right and very well.  Continuing in this modest vein is almost comfortable right up until the point when I ponder the phenomenal difference we make beyond our great outcomes and numbers.  More people deserve to benefit from it!

Like many, Covid19 threw a curveball opportunity that has neither fundamentally changed us nor endangered us.  This is because our mission and vision were always clear – to prevent homelessness. The team is as strong as they have ever been, their ideas are getting away from me (in a good way) and our digital transformation (and I mean every letter of that second word) was all their work.

Amplifying existing housing association support

Our current brilliant housing association customers recognise the strength of their own offer alongside how it can be boosted by partnering with us. When we start a partnership we equip housing teams with the knowledge about our service and how it’s different – and also complementary.  Together we are able to further develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of your tenants alongside your offer.  With our delivery of tenancy sustainment workshops (TILS+ and DigiTILS+) we provide the space for tenants to reflect on what they have heard from their housing support officer or income officer.  Together, trainees in a group find their voice with us as an independent organisation.  They find themselves able to share their knowledge of the support they have received as well as their new skills. In so doing, the support your teams are providing already is amplified. Hearing from peer tenants about what support they have accessed and found useful as well as hearing the same content from a different voice in a different way boosts what you are doing already. This reinforces the messages that housing associations are already investing so much in.

Whether it’s income teams, benefits or money advice or even getting to the point of eviction, the support we see many housing associations offer often faces huge challenges of reaching people in difficult situations and often already in crisis. Ours is a prevention offer that can both prevent a crisis happening (freeing up your team’s time) or build the skills of the tenant to resolve the situation themselves (building resilience for the future and also freeing up staff time). These are not simply life skills, but skills for life.  They equip people to go further than simply resolving their money worries or tenancy responsibilities, but to consider enrolling at college, finding work, or simply leaving their room for the first time.

Partnership approach

We’re often told by housing associations that they deliver what we do already.  What we see are housing associations doing phenomenal work around advice and sustainment work that can be enhanced by a partnership. Here’s the value we can bring to that work:

FREEING UP YOUR STAFF TIME

  • Through facilitation rather than advice or 1-2-1 crisis support, we ensure the trainee residents not only gain the new knowledge, skills and confidence to sustain their tenancy, but develop the longer term skills of realising they have the skills needed to get help and find their own solutions.  All this means there is less pressure on your teams as trainees become more inter-dependent and resilient.

REINFORCING YOUR MESSAGES

  • Like many housing associations, you’re as committed to tenancy support as we are.  We also know that our delivery style will be different to yours.  To take information on board and change behaviour the human brain has to hear things multiple times in multiple ways – by attending our workshops we reinforce your messages.

GROUP WORK & PEER LEARNING

  • We know how hard it can be to get groups of residents together and yet we know how powerful the peer group can be.  As experts in their own lives, our group workshops offer the space to reflect on the support they may have had from you already, support each other and gain the confidence to act on your advice. This is our area of expertise and strengthened by being an independent organisation. It builds connections and inter-dependence and the confidence to engage with other group interventions (college or training courses and volunteering etc).

INDEPENDENCE

  • Our independence as an external organisation is a huge strength and enables us to hear the voice of the resident that is sometimes silent.  We can work with them and with you during our interventions to understand how they receive your service and include this in our impact reports for you.

Your Own Place exists to prevent homelessness by ensuring people have the skills to sustain a tenancy. For more information about the services it provides, contact rebecca@yourownplace.org.uk

Supporting Survivors: How tackling domestic abuse helps us deliver on the Homes for Cathy Commitments

By Iain Turner, Corporate Compliance Manager at Wandle

Wandle is a founding member of Homes for Cathy and, like many other members, was set-up in the 1960’s in response to concerns about rising levels of homelessness. Our founding members wanted to provide homes for families in desperate need of the stability and security a good home brings. Over 50 years on, that aim hasn’t changed, and we are still working to try and end homelessness, by providing safe and affordable homes in South London.

Few people will value a safe and secure home more than a survivor of domestic abuse. Under our long-term strategic plan, we began a project in 2019 to overhaul our approach to domestic abuse. Our aim is to achieve accreditation from the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) – an organisation which is driving a step change in tackling domestic abuse across the social housing sector.

Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. It’s an issue that can impact anyone, from any walk of life – regardless of gender, sexuality, class or race. Ian Wright’s recent documentary about growing up with an abusive father shone a light on the long-term impact it can have on children and grown men too.  According to research by homelessness charity St Mungo’s, 32 per cent of homeless women said domestic abuse contributed to their homelessness.

My experience leading our project

Our domestic abuse project is sponsored by our Chief Executive, Tracey Lees, who has been passionately talking about the subject for as long as I’ve been at Wandle. When Tracey asked me to be the project lead I was surprised. I was Wandle’s Policy Officer at the time, working in the Governance Team. I have no hands-on housing management experience, no lived experience of domestic abuse, and had very little knowledge or expertise on the subject.

Fast forward almost three years I’m a trained domestic abuse champion, I’ve attended countless webinars and learned more than I could have imagined about the impact of abuse and how housing providers can support survivors. It’s been emotionally draining at times, but I’ve learned to openly talk about the subject, regardless of whether it might make some people feel uncomfortable (while being mindful of the impact this can have on those who have witnessed or lived through abuse). It’s an uncomfortable topic but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.

Supporting our staff

One of the key changes we have made at Wandle is to acknowledge that anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of abuse. It’s not something that affects just our residents – it’s something many of our colleagues will live with too. Many providers may think just about their residents when addressing domestic abuse – and that’s the approach we initially were taking – but this changed when we made contact with Hestia and went through their ‘Everyone’s Business’ programme. Hestia worked with us to develop an employee focus policy, raise awareness and train managers and a group of champions in how to support colleagues who may be enduring abuse or supporting someone who is. This work has obviously helped inform our approach for residents too but having a separate policy has really helped us make clear to staff that support is there if they need it.

Meeting our commitments

So, how does our focus on supporting survivors of domestic abuse link to our work as Homes for Cathy members? We have signed up to the nine commitments, one of which is meeting the needs of vulnerable tenant groups. Given that potentially one in three of our female tenants will endure domestic abuse in their lifetime, we know that tackling domestic abuse certainly helps us towards meeting that commitment. There are numerous ways we can do this, whether it’s transferring someone to a property away from their abuser or putting extra security in place to keep someone safe in their home. Even just signposting to other support services can be a vital first step.

There is still work to do, but we’ve definitely started seeing the benefits of our new approach. We have unfortunately seen a rise in cases since the pandemic hit, but we’ve also provided more support to survivors than ever. We have numerous examples of our Housing Team going out of their way to support survivors, even arranging removals in the dead of night so that a young parent could move without her abuser knowing. We are offering smart doorbells to survivors so they can see who’s at their door and we have a new online web app, developed by Hestia and the Post Office. This signposts to local and national resources, while leaving no internet history, which might otherwise be found by abusers.

Most importantly our automatic response is to believe anyone who tells us they are enduring abuse and will investigate any reports of potential concerns. There’s no doubt that tackling domestic abuse can help Homes for Cathy members meet their commitments, sustain tenancies, and most importantly save lives.

Iain Turner, Corporate Compliance Manager, Wandle


Wandle is a founding member of the Homes for Cathy group. Founded in 1967 as the Merton Family Housing Trust, it has since grown into an organisation with over 7,000 homes across nine south London boroughs.

Homes for Cathy part of ground-breaking commission seeking to end rough sleeping

The Homes for Cathy group is one of over 100 housing, health, government and charity organisations and individuals with lived experience who submitted evidence for a ground-breaking new report calling for the Government to continue the principles and funding of the ‘Everyone In’ emergency response to rough sleeping.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, chaired by the former head of the civil service Lord Bob Kerslake, has concluded the Government needs to maintain the additional funding that it made available during the pandemic – equating to £82m a year on top of its previous spending commitment – if it is to have any chance of achieving its pre-election promise to end rough sleeping by the end of this parliament.

The Commission was convened in March 2021 to examine the lessons from the public health emergency response to rough sleeping during the pandemic, and to understand how the significant progress made can be embedded in the longer term.  It analysed the cross sector response to Covid-19, and the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ initiative, launched in March 2020, which saw local authorities directed to move people who were sleeping rough into emergency accommodation to protect them from the virus.

As a result, according to Government estimates, at least 37,000 people were provided with a Covid-secure place to stay, along with access to health and other support services. The policy has been credited as having saved hundreds of lives. The Kerslake Commission received more than 100 evidence submissions from local authorities, from people with lived experience of homelessness and of sleeping rough, as well as from and health, housing and homelessness organisations. It also commissioned two literature reviews into the emergency response.  The interim report, entitled ‘When We Work Together – Learning the Lessons’ provides a comprehensive overview of this evidence and makes recommendations for the priorities and approaches needed to end rough sleeping which are targeted at the 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Homes for Cathy chair David Bogle, who sits on the Commission’s Advisory Board, comments:

“I was honoured to be asked to be part of the Commission on behalf of Homes for Cathy.  We know that within the Homes for Cathy group there is a real appetite to play a part in ending rough sleeping, with many of our member organisations pulling out all the stops to support the Everyone In initiative.  It’s vital that the Government makes long-term investments now so that we don’t lose that momentum and can build on the success achieved.”

David Bogle, chair of Homes for Cathy

The Kerslake Commission interim report makes 22 recommendations. The key points of these are:

  • The Government must capture and capitalise on the gains that were made as a result of its ‘Everyone In’ policy and the partnership working which flowed from it as a matter of urgency, and maintain the necessary funding
  • The cross-sector, cross-departmental, momentum initiated by central Government at the start of the pandemic, married with the additional support and resourcing provided since, has clearly demonstrated that street homelessness can be ended
  • Future funding streams made available to local authorities must be more flexible and have longevity if the prevention and long term support measures needed to end rough sleeping are to be effectively and appropriately implemented as determined by local need in a ‘spend to save’ approach
  • That street homelessness is treated as a public health and housing priority which requires a cross-Governmental approach with co-ordination on both strategy and delivery, at all levels
  • To prevent more homelessness and rough sleeping in the future we need to maintain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and the change to local housing allowance, and
  • Investing in better and more permanent solutions such as the Housing First initiative alongside the additional spend in temporary accommodation, with wrap around support is vital.

The final report will follow in September and will include policy and practice recommendations.

Giving life new meaning: How BCHA is supporting ex-homeless people to achieve their aspirations

Homes for Cathy recently interviewed Zaza Phoenix, one of BCHA‘s new Meaningful Occupation Coordinators, to find out more about her role supporting formerly homeless people to achieve their aspirations through meaningful activities. Here Zaza shares how the role came about and how this type of support can help people move their lives forward after experiencing rough sleeping, addiction and trauma.

How did the role of Meaningful Occupation Coordinator come about?

The role came about following BCHA’s success partnering with local authorities in Bournemouth, Dorset, Exeter and Plymouth, in bidding for the Government’s ‘Next Step Accommodation Programme’ (NSAP) funding. The NSAP Project was created to temporarily house rough sleepers in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.

BCHA has worked together with our planning, asset and tenancy sustainment colleagues to deliver an ambitious supported and move on accommodation project. Our success with the NSAP programme reflects the strong and credible relationships we have established with local authorities and partners. It’s a great example of how we have worked together in supporting homelessness strategies and our commitment to providing good quality housing solutions to people who would otherwise be homeless.

This role is a culture fit to BCHA’s existing Ignite programme, an area of expertise for BCHA, which has been successfully delivering employability skills for over ten years. Our Ignite employability and skills programme focuses on supporting people to find greater self-belief, break free from benefit support, get back in to work, and live life. Delivered in partnership with Skills & Learning BCP, Ignite offers a range of workshops for people to choose from, which are all tailored to build someone’s self-esteem and confidence, and to support people to achieve their goals.               

What does your role entail?

The Meaningful Occupation Coordinators work closely with a small group of individuals in an accommodation setting, who are seeking to return to learning or work after moving out of homelessness. Our approach is to provide intensive 1:1 practical support to bring out a client’s aspirations, strengths and abilities through meaningful occupation activities. The role focuses on the following areas:

  • Empowering individuals to make choices and to be in control of their own lives
  • Genuine future planning drawing on hopes, strengths, aspirations and goals
  • Nurturing meaningful and positive relationships based on trust
  • Mindfully promoting physical health and mental wellbeing
  • Keeping people safe and building long term resilience
  • Connection to digital and in person communities and networks

What particular challenges do your clients face and how do meaningful activities help them move forward?

We work with individuals with complex lives facing challenges such as homelessness, rough sleeping, addiction and trauma to make positive changes.

Meaningful activities will give clients tools, skills, and knowledge to make lasting positive changes to enhance their life. Clients will have a person centred programme developed using the Outcomes Star as a foundation tool, to look at each person’s journey, choices, and goals, as they may be different. An overriding aim is to support people to increase their self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and wellbeing through a Housing First model, utilising a trauma informed approach within a psychologically informed environment.

Are there any particular obstacles you have encountered in the role and how have you been able to overcome them?

The particular obstacles we have encountered are:

  • Unaffordability – those who would benefit most from the service of Meaningful Occupation cannot actually afford the tenancy, while those who can afford the tenancy are less willing to engage due to the detrimental affect employment may have on their benefit income.
  • COVID and BREXIT have continually delayed properties being ready on time, due to supplies etc.
  • COVID has also presented obstacles in engaging with residents safely, however the necessary PPE has been provided to support this.

We are remaining flexible around these obstacles and addressing them as/if they arise using reflective practice.

Do you have any tips or advice for other housing associations or charities looking to introduce a similar role/scheme?

The best tips we can offer are:

  • Network. Knowing where your providers are and build strong relationships within the community to create a positive reputation for yourself and the service you are providing.  When the MOC comes to discuss the goals and aspirations of each client they will have a wealth of knowledge about service provision and available opportunities, and also have pre-established links with the community providers.
  • Mutual, experiential, intensive support.  Signposting does not work for much of our client group – get in touch with the workshop / class / course / volunteering provider and ask what the criteria of attendance is (be informed about what you are recommending from a position of experience rather than blind signposting).  Then attend the session alongside your client, not merely in a supportive role. Lead by example. 
  • Make sure what you do is based in a framework of evidence. We champion the 5 stages of wellness (NEF, 2008) with everything we do with our clients.  Being evidence based and championed by the NHS, it provides continuity and a framework of what we are working towards.  Use reflective practice to reinforce the positive experience.

BCHA is a charitable housing association based in Bournemouth, operating across the South West of England. For more information, visit http://www.bcha.org.uk.

A place to call home for asylum seekers in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Housing Association‘s Co-Director of Care, Health and Wellbeing, Charlotte Murray, shares more information about their growing partnership with ASSIST – a Sheffield based organisation who work with people who are seeking sanctuary and who have been refused asylum.

I’m a firm believer that no human – or organisation for that matter – survives alone. Together with Jochen Kortlaender (Accommodation Manager for ASSIST Sheffield), South Yorkshire Housing Association hopes to deliver a new feasibility study called Filling the Void, which has been funded by Crisis. 

ASSIST Sheffield provides accommodation, information and other support.  ASSIST has a 17-year history of amazing work with asylum seekers in our city. For the past two years, as part of our work as a Homes for Cathy member, we have been working with ASSIST and learning from their expertise to help contribute to ending migrant homelessness.

We’re not alone.  In 2007, Sheffield became the first City of Sanctuary in the UK and, in addition to ASSIST Sheffield, lots of organisations now take pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety and the provision of exceptional services and support.   

Covid-19 has been hard for everyone, but for people with no recourse to public funds – and the organisations that support them – it has been crippling. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the night shelter that ASSIST ran in a church hall in Sheffield had to close and remains closed. This previously provided essential emergency night-time accommodation for people who had no recourse to public funds. 

The Filling the Void feasibility study does what it says on the tin. Working with ASSIST, and drawing on insight from NACCOM and others, over the past two months we’ve been looking at the feasibility of using SYHA properties that are void (empty) to provide short-term emergency accommodation via ASSIST for asylum seekers.    

In theory this sounds straightforward and a total no-brainer but, as with any good feasibility study, the devil is in the detail. Luckily, we’ve been guided by expert project manager, Oliver Chamberlain, who has extensive experience of working with both ASSIST and SYHA in the past. In addition, our two years partnership with ASSIST has ensured that the Filling the Void project is building on a firm relationship, trust and understanding between housing (SYHA) and ASSIST.

So what have been the challenges? The feasibility is ongoing but the main things so far include:  

  • Housing availability/location. We don’t have many void properties in central Sheffield that aren’t turned around very quickly and re-let. Demand is higher than ever.
  • HMOs. To ensure ASSIST can meet the demand for emergency accommodation, and asylum seekers can support each other, HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) are desirable. These properties require additional safety requirements. Transforming a general needs property into an HMO is too time-consuming and expensive to provide short-term accommodation.
  • State of properties. Often properties are void because they require major repairs and are unsuitable for habitation.
  • Bills, insurance, lease agreements. Smaller issues including who pays the council tax and utility bills on the property and how the management agreement should be formulated to ensure compliance have presented challenges.

Despite this, we have identified a couple of HMO properties in Sheffield which are void, and would otherwise remain so, as SYHA assesses them for disposal or redevelopment. We’re working with ASSIST on the details but hope that these properties will provide much needed short-term emergency accommodation via Assist for people with no recourse to public funds in Sheffield. This will be especially important as we exit from Covid-19.

We’ll keep working with ASSIST on the Filling the Void project and our wider partnership to ensure that we walk the talk in helping to contribute to ending migrant homelessness. Together we are stronger and we cannot walk alone.

If other Housing Providers would like to support this project, please get in touch. People can donate to ASSIST here.

Charlotte Murray, Co-Director of Care, Health and Wellbeing, South Yorkshire Housing Association

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Join our free Housing Solutions to Migrant Homelessness event

15 September 2021

A psychologically informed approach to supporting young people out of homelessness

Trauma informed care and a psychologically informed environment can support young people at risk of homelessness on their journey towards independence, writes Spiros Georgiou, Supported Housing Operations Manager at Homes for Cathy member Hightown Housing Association.

During the past year the homelessness crisis has seen new challenges. Covid-19 has exacerbated some of the disadvantages faced by people, with family tensions, loss of jobs and income and mental ill health being key drivers for homelessness.  Evidence shows that experience of trauma can lead to homelessness and losing your home and becoming homeless can be very traumatic. 

There is also evidence of the strong link between homelessness and adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect and domestic violence.  People who have experienced trauma can be left feeling helpless and terrified.  They often feel a lack of control and a sense of unpredictability, a loss of safety and, in the worst case scenarios, a fear of serious harm or death.  Trauma is defined by the experience of the individual and not the event, so not everyone who experiences trauma will develop chronic symptoms – it depends on their resilience.  What we do know is that early childhood has more of an effect than experiencing trauma as an adult.

Preparing young people for an independent, self-sufficient life

At Hightown, we identified the need for us to take a more trauma informed approach in our young people’s care and supported housing service. The service provides semi-independent living for young people aged 16-24 who may have left care or become estranged from family and are at a high risk of homelessness.  Our goal with the service is to prepare our young people for an independent, self-sufficient life.  We believed that by implementing a psychologically informed environment (PIE) – that was sensitive to their emotional needs – we could overcome some of the barriers that were impeding their journey to independence. 

It was the start of a significant learning curve for the team, requiring us to consider the thinking, emotions, personalities and past experiences of service users and adapt the design and delivery of the service to meet their needs.  Importantly, it also helped us gain a deeper insight into our own personal attitudes and beliefs and reaffirmed our faith in our service users’ ability to change.

In practice, adopting a PIE approach meant support workers building a therapeutic relationship with service users, which involved being non-judgmental, validating individuals’ emotions and feelings and helping them create a safe environment.  It also meant taking the time to understand the past traumas our service users may have experienced and understanding how this may affect their boundaries, their relationships with others and their sense of safety.

Direct impact on evictions and abandonments

Being trauma informed has had a direct impact on the warnings we give out and ultimately on evictions and abandonments, as we are able to find alternative ways to promote a change in behaviour that might otherwise put a tenancy at risk.  In our young people’s housing, we meet weekly as a team to discuss creative and flexible ways to find what works for the individual when it comes to escalating needs and risks.  For example, when an incident occurs, staff deal with the immediate event, before allowing time for individuals to reflect on the incident and come up with personalised and co-produced response.  This may mean that instead of issuing a generic warning – which can be overused or even misused – we provide a support intervention to address the issues at play. 

Most recently, we had a service user who repeatedly refused us access to their property for maintenance works.  They would either become extremely distressed and angry when the staff visited or would prepare for the visit, then self-harm and refuse access.  Instead of issuing a warning, we worked with them as a team to understand and validate the way they were feeling, so that we could build trust and help them feel safe.  We began to look at why they had become homeless in the first place and learned that they had witnessed domestic violence in the home as a child, for which they had never received appropriate support.  We quickly understood that they were becoming overwhelmed with emotion and fear during each visit, triggering a fight or flight response, and their coping strategy was either to become angry or self-harm.  Instead of asserting our authority, we personalised our response, empowering them to access therapy and coaching for their anger, as well as facilitating regular visits from the community mental health team.  We also introduced them to one of our maintenance workers and supported them to build a trusting and professional relationship with that person, so the works could take place.

We have also recently launched a new way of dealing with substance misuse, in response to an ongoing issue around the use of cannabis amongst young people in the scheme.  In the past, this was dealt with by the traditional warnings system.  However, we found that the young people were soon exhausting the warning system and were therefore at risk of eviction and sometimes even evicted as a result, which is something we wanted to avoid.

Traffic light warnings for substance misuse

We know that using illegal substances can be a coping mechanism to deal with stress or emotionally distressing thoughts and/or childhood adversity and unresolved complex trauma. However, we also know that the use of illegal drugs in our services can be problematic, as we have a duty of care to all service users and staff.  Instead, we created a traffic light system for substance misuse, the idea being that before we issue a formal warning that indicates the tenancy is at risk (and could ultimately lead to an eviction), we put in place a tiered support intervention first.

The traffic light system has various support actions and interventions to explore at each stage, for example understanding the young person’s substance misuse habits and patterns through workbooks and surveys, organising support meetings with any professionals involved, referring the young person to drug and alcohol agencies in the community, engaging the young person in meaningful activity, goal setting and support to reach aspirations, facilitating contact with community mental health team, counselling and much more.  Since launching the traffic light system, we have only had one young person reach the amber card stage and no young people reach the red card stage, and there has been a dramatic decrease in substance misuse related incidents.  In addition to this, our young people have engaged really well with the support interventions and benefited from the change in approach.

A PIE approach is not only about being sensitive to the emotional needs of service users; working in homelessness services can sometimes result in staff experiencing secondary trauma, where they are themselves affected by what they see and hear from service users.  Ultimately this can lead to burnout and staff feeling hopeless, depressed, stressed, uncreative and frustrated in their roles.  We therefore actively invite staff members to ask for help if they need it and build in time to reflect as a team, as well as encouraging everyone to do things they enjoy, so that their own basic needs are met too.

Implementing a trauma informed approach and a psychologically informed environment takes time – it’s not something that can be introduced overnight.  However, it’s only a framework – there are no policies or prescriptive set of rules to adhere to.  Essentially, it’s about being person-centred.  At Hightown, we have found that improving our own reflection as a staff team and building our relationship with service users have been positive steps in the right direction.

Spiros Georgiou, Supported Housing Operations Manager, Hightown Housing Association

Interested in finding out how other Homes for Cathy members are implementing a psychologically informed approach in homelessness services and housing? Register for our free online workshop on 26 May.

Psychologically informed approach key to Sovereign’s new Next Steps Accommodation service

Homes for Cathy spoke to Stephanie Wood, Head of Supported Housing at Sovereign, to find out how the housing association has used MHCLG funding to set up a new move-on scheme in Basingstoke that puts the psychological needs of residents first.

What was the background to your Next Steps Accommodation bid?

Before the funding came up, we were already having various discussions with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on homelessness provision as part of our involvement with the Basingstoke and Deane Social Inclusion Partnership (SIP).  The SIP is a strategic partnership of local stakeholders, including statutory, voluntary and charity organisations, faith groups and local businesses, all of whom want to reduce homelessness and advance social inclusion in the borough. 

The local authority clearly highlighted that they had real issue with move-on accommodation from the homeless pathway for single people, especially single people under the age of 35 who simply can’t access self-contained properties as move-on.  Not only is it completely unaffordable in Basingstoke for them to cover the cost of a one bed flat, there’s also a massive shortage of one-bed properties in the area. 

We wanted to provide something different and it was felt that offering shared accommodation would work much better, preparing people and giving them the skills for a shared living arrangement, as realistically this is likely to be the type of property they will eventually move on to.

Tell us about the accommodation the funding will deliver

We’re setting up three very small HMO shared properties.  One is already open – a three-bedroom house where we’re currently converting a garage to provide some social space.  The other two – which are very large four-bedroom flats – are being refurbished at the moment to make them three-bedroom flats, one of which will have an office with its own access so as not to impinge on residents’ privacy and the other of which will have a computer or quiet room, depending on what the future residents want. 

We were actually really shocked to get the funding, not only because Basingstoke hadn’t been earmarked as an area for Next Steps Accommodation, but also because the service put forward didn’t meet the criteria for self-contained properties. 

What secured it for us was the unique support we were able to provide with the revenue element.  We’re setting up the service using a psychologically informed approach (PIA), with input from psychologists and peer mentoring – it’s something that was of real interest to MHCLG.

How do the PIA and peer mentoring scheme work and what difference do they make for people using the service?

Through the SIP we were already engaged with an organisation called Outcome Home, a group of psychologists from the University of Southampton who have developed an existing peer mentor programme in Basingstoke.  Luckily, they absolutely felt that this was a project they wanted to be part of and we were able to establish a project group together, which includes two peer mentors, two psychologists from the University of Southampton, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and ourselves.  What it’s enabled us to do is think about how we could deliver the service differently. The peer mentors and Outcome Home are leading on engagement with residents to shape the policies and approaches for the service, for example how we identify who will move into the properties. 

A crucial aspect is that there are no forms to fill in and no referrals; we simply approach the providers of the local homelessness pathway to suggest who they think would benefit from the service.  We don’t go through any criminal history or previous tenancies, we ask the current provider to share that information with us so the new tenant doesn’t have to go through it over and over again.  The peer mentors and support worker then have a conversation with a prospective tenant to find out what they hope to get out of the scheme, as well as their aspirations in terms of moving forward.  It’s all very informal. 

With the service that’s already open, before it opened we were able to identify three people who wanted to live together and engage with them about what they wanted the service to look like in terms of decoration, furniture and fittings. 

We’re now converting the garage into a lounge with the Next Steps Funding and although we’re limited in terms of the conversion work, the residents have been part of the plans; they’re deciding what’s going in there – a snooker table at present.  Our plan was also to involve them in the decorating itself but unfortunately Covid restrictions and the tight timeline has stopped us from being able to do that.

The support itself is being delivered in three ways. Sovereign does the housing management and our support worker provides up to three hours of support for each individual around practical things like benefits and independent living skills.  There is also a level of support from the volunteer peer mentors who bring lived experience and have been through a lot of the same challenges.  Additionally, the psychologists from Outcomes Homes will spend several hours a week supporting the residents either as a group or as individuals for anyone who wants it. 

The difference with a PIA is that services are designed and delivered in a way that considers the emotional and psychological needs of the individuals using them, so with that in mind we also did a piece of work with the residents around how they wanted to manage the property together; they came up with their own rules, such as not smoking inside.

The peer mentors are also involved alongside the psychologists in working with residents on what we call ‘safety planning’, not only looking at how they would like us to respond to potential challenging behaviour but also how they would like their fellow residents to respond, so problems don’t become bigger issues that could ultimately threaten their accommodation.  There’s no sanction process; the residents decide what happens when someone breaks the rules and how it’s dealt with – it’s very much turning things on their head in terms of who has the control.  It’s quite a unique approach for the residents, who have already been through a pathway of hostels.

Do you have any learnings to share with Homes for Cathy members having set up the service?

As we’ve already opened the first scheme, we definitely have a lot of learnings we can use in the other two properties to make it a smoother process.  As with any partnership scheme, going forward it’s important to map out responsibilities and where they sit, so there’s no confusion or doubling up.  It’s also important to recognise the engagement process with residents can take time; going too quickly can be very overwhelming and cause unnecessary anxiety.  Obtaining ‘buy in’ from other homeless services making the referrals is also vital, not only so that we have a sufficient timeframe to work with residents in advance of moving in but also so that people using those services are informed and educated about their options for moving on and are better prepared when the time comes.  Again, it’s part of the whole PIA approach, taking into account their needs around mental and psychological wellbeing and recognising that moving itself can be traumatic.

What are your hopes for the future of the service? 

We haven’t put a time limit on residents using the service, despite the MHCLG criteria being that it’s temporary move-on for a maximum of two years.  Our belief is that people will be engaging in a service that will move their life on and that they will naturally want progress over that time period.  We hope that having engaged with the peer mentors, residents may even be inspired to become peer mentors themselves to future residents.


About Sovereign

Sovereign is a leading housing association operating across the south of England, with almost 60,000 homes focused in a core area covering Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon, Wiltshire, the West of England and the Isle of Wight.

Read about Charlie, one of the peer mentors working with Sovereign