Are you doing enough to prevent women’s homelessness?

As we mark both NO MORE Week (6-12 March) and International Women’s Day (8 March), Homes for Cathy’s Vicki McDonald examines the link between women’s homelessness and violence against women and calls on the housing sector to challenge itself to do more to tackle the issue.

The stereotypical image of someone experiencing homelessness is usually a male, usually a person living on the street.  While the official statistics show that most people rough sleeping in England are indeed male – amounting to 85 per cent of the total – what often isn’t recognised is that women experience homelessness differently to men.

According to the Kerslake Commission on Rough Sleeping‘s final report: ‘Women are often hidden whilst homeless or rough sleeping, finding secluded sleep sites or using tents, staying with friends or family, sleeping on buses or with strangers who expect sex in return for shelter, or wearing baggy clothes to hide their gender‘.

We also know that women’s experiences of homelessness are typically shaped by gender-based violence.  As highlighted in the Centre for Homelessness Impact‘s 2021 report: Women, homelessness and violence: what works?, one in five women who have experienced violence end up homeless, compared to 1 in 100 who have no experience of violence.

Positively, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 placed new statutory duties on local authorities to support victims of domestic abuse, including the requirement that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse are classed as ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.  Last month, the Government also announced an additional £125 million funding pot for councils across England to provide vital support services to help victims of domestic abuse rebuild their lives.

So, as housing providers committed to tackling homelessness, how can we as a sector best respond to the needs of homeless women who have been victims of violence?  Homes for Cathy explored the topic at a workshop last November, during which we heard from Dr Kesia Reeve from the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research (CRESR), an authority on the gendered nature of housing disadvantage. 

Housing-led interventions

Dr Reeve outlined the effectiveness of housing-led interventions, including rapid re-housing models for women, such as the Westminster VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Housing First Project, where the housing element is provided by Homes for Cathy members Peabody and Women’s Pioneer Housing, amongst others.  Such models can offer a viable alternative to temporary accommodation, particularly if the support element provided is tailored to the needs of women who have experienced violence, for example support to address trauma or substance misuse or practical assistance around aspects of the legal system such as restraining orders and access to children. 

Another good example is North Star’s Hestia service, which provides settled self-contained accommodation, dispersed throughout the community, for vulnerable women, together with floating support to help tenants deal with a wide range of issues.  Properties provided through the Hestia service come with essential furniture, vital for women who may have fled their home with nothing.  Hestia’s USP is that once a tenant no longer requires support, they can remain in their home, with the property reverting to a general needs tenancy.

Preventative measures

Dr Reeve also stressed the importance of ‘upstream interventions’ – such as continued staff development – to prevent homelessness, as well as the importance of promoting an organisational culture that recognises the needs of women facing multiple disadvantage.  Training should be offered to all employees who come into contact with tenants, including repairs teams.  At Gentoo, repairs staff have a ‘Something Not Quite Right’ button on their handheld devices to document a cause for concern and trigger a follow up by the Neighbourhood Safety Team.  Other preventative upstream interventions include Sanctuary Schemes, whereby the perpetrator of violence is moved from a property and security measures are installed to keep the victim safe.

Gender-informed homelessness services

Where temporary accommodation is the only option, gender-informed services can make all the difference for women who have experienced violence.  According to Dr Reeve, gender-informed services need to be trauma-informed.  One example is Elim Housing Association, which is part of a gender-informed, strategically designed homelessness pathway commissioned by Bristol City Council, offering guaranteed single sex accommodation.  The formalised pathway means that information can be shared easily between providers, so women don’t have to go through the traumatic experience of retelling their story time and time again to different organisations.  It also allows for continuity of support workers, so that women are supported by the same person through the course of their journey through different providers.  The Mapping the Maze model is a good resource for providers seeking to understand how to make their services more trauma-informed.

As we mark both NO MORE Week and International Women’s Day – a focus for advancing gender equality – perhaps now is the time to consider whether your association is taking women’s needs into account in your policies, procedures and provision relating to homelessness.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your teams trained to recognise the signs and impact of domestic abuse and ask tenants the right questions? 
  • Could you install extra security measures in the properties of tenants who have experienced domestic violence?
  • Could you partner with a local authority to deliver a Housing First service tailored to women, single sex emergency accommodation or temporary supported accommodation?
  • Could properties be equipped with essential furniture and white goods for women fleeing violence? 
  • Are your existing homelessness services gender and trauma-informed so that women feel safe and have access to tailored support? 

Vicki McDonald is Homes for Cathy’s communications and marketing lead

Unlocking a more stable future for rough sleepers in your area

Just over a year since the government announced the first tranche of Rough Sleeper Accommodation Programme (RSAP) funding allocations, over 5,700 move-on homes for rough sleepers have been delivered by councils and their partners across England. 

In that time, many Homes for Cathy member organisations have risen to RSAP challenge, working closely with their local authorities to co-produce move-on schemes and create the long-term capital assets that will contribute to local plans to end rough sleeping.  For many, it’s been a steep learning curve, complicated by the pandemic, a booming property market and rocketing building costs.

Fulfilling housing associations’ social purpose

However, it’s shown that where there’s a will, there’s a way; housing associations committed to their social purpose are playing a valuable part in solving the homelessness crisis.  What’s more, it’s clear that those organisations who already have strong relationship with local authorities – as set out in the Homes for Cathy commitments – have been able to act at speed to respond to local need.

With the recent announcement of RSAP bidding cycle five, now could be the last opportunity until 2025 for providers to deliver long-term move-on homes; the majority of the capital funding remaining is available for the financial year 2022/23, with only a small amount available in 2023/24.  Revenue funding – to provide the support element that is crucial to helping former rough sleepers re-build their lives – is also available for the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.  Councils and their partners have until 13 April 2022 to submit their co-produced proposals and work must start on site by 31 March 2023, with completion required by the end of March 2024.

Tips for co-producing a move-on scheme

So, what do bidders need to take into account when considering co-producing a move-on scheme?  Here are our tips:

  • Focus on additional provision – DLUHC’s objective is to grow capacity in the sector, therefore no more than approximately 10 per cent of housing units will come from existing social housing stock currently in use or where historic grant has been invested.
  • Be creative – any route that can bring about a solution will be considered, from converting shops and commercial spaces to modern methods of construction (MMC) on brownfield sites.
  • Flexibility is welcome – dispersed, self-contained accommodation can offer the best outcomes but it’s recognised that, in high value property areas in particular, acquiring or building that type of property may not be viable, so shared accommodation is an option. 
  • Sustainability is key – for example, new build properties must have a minimum life expectancy of 60 years, ‘off the shelf’ dwellings that are acquired must a life expectancy of 30 years and longer leases will be prioritised.
  • Social investment is an option – for providers who would have difficulty accessing funding, social investment funds can offer a solution to purchasing properties at speed.
  • Help is on hand – the bidding process is just the start of an on-going relationship with Homes England; the team is available throughout the delivery period to help iron out any issues that providers may encounter along the way.

For more information, the full RSAP guidance is available here.

Vicki McDonald, Homes for Cathy Communications & Marketing Lead

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

Discover more

Join our free Housing Solutions to Migrant Homelessness event

15 September 2021