Category Archives: Opinion

Nurturing partnerships to support people seeking sanctuary

Charlotte Murray, Director of Care, Health & Wellbeing at South Yorkshire Housing Association, shares how local collaboration is ensuring people seeking sanctuary have access to the support they need to settle in the UK.

In June, during Refugee Week, we got together with local people and organisations to build connections, share stories, and learn more about how we can continue to welcome and support people seeking sanctuary.

Our event celebrated everything that migrants and refugees bring to our country and communities, and shared more about our commitment to ending homelessness. We launched our new report: Ending homelessness for people seeking sanctuary in South Yorkshire. The report shares more about how we are collaborating with local organisations to fulfil the Homes for Cathy commitment to Contribute to ending migrant homelessness in the areas that Housing Associations operate; it includes examples of how we’re working with people seeking sanctuary to settle in a safe, secure home, to build connections, and to get into employment, training and education.

“I have lived experience of homelessness, and my goal is to help people. I think we can work miracles!”

– Ashiana service user

Above: Charlotte Murray, Director of Care, Health & Wellbeing at SYHA

We also heard from people that have worked with Ashiana, an organisation that supports Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee adults, children and young people fleeing domestic and sexual abuse. They generously shared more about their experiences – it was great to hear about what support worked well, their ideas for improving and growing our services, and about their goals for the future.

Above: Sheffield Central Councillor, Abtisam Mohamed

Globalmama provided us with a delicious lunch, and we also enjoyed a lively Zumba class with Shahina, and Sana offered our attendees beautiful henna. A huge thank you to everyone that joined us, including local Councillors Abtisam Mohamed and Nighat Basharat, and to Civica and Node4 for sponsoring the event. The event really highlighted the importance of creating, nurturing and growing great partnerships, and the dedication of local people and organisations to supporting people seeking sanctuary.

Read the report:

It’s right that the sector focuses on tenant satisfaction but where does homelessness fit in? 

Our Homes for Cathy panel discussion at last week’s Housing 2023 Fringe asked the question: Could an increased focus on tenant satisfaction undermine the sector’s work around homelessness? 

Homes for Cathy chair David Bogle steered the discussion between expert panellists Jo Richardson, Professor of Housing & Social Inclusion at De Montfort University, CIH past president and author of the Homeful report into housing-led approaches to ending homelessness; Callum Chomczuk, National Director, CIH Scotland; and Faye Greaves, Housing Programme Manager at Crisis. 

The discussion was a timely one, coinciding with news that the Social Housing Regulation Bill is set to become law after clearing both Houses.  This signifies the biggest changes to social housing regulation in a decade, including the introduction of a proactive consumer regulation regime underpinned by new consumer standards.   

The Regulator has already identified the themes the consumer standards are set to cover and will consult on the detail of each theme over the summer.  In advance of this planned consultation, the panellists gave their views on how the standards could best meet the needs of those experiencing or at risk of homelessness and the wider system changes that are needed to put an end to homelessness.   

A key area of focus for the panellists was the theme of ‘tenure’; under this theme, the Regulator has cited that landlords’ allocation process must be ‘fair, transparent and accessible to all’ and identified the importance of effective tenancy management so that ‘tenancies are sustained where appropriate’ including ‘supporting tenants, as well as working closely, and cooperating with local authorities in meeting their duties’.    

Here are our five key takeaways from the discussion: 

Three areas where housing associations can have an impact homelessness 

There are three key areas where housing associations can have an impact on homelessness: allocations and lettings to homeless households; tenancy sustainment and avoiding evictions into homelessness.  Despite constraints, the fact that some housing associations perform better than others in these areas shows that there is room for improvement. 

Current tenancy standards are not sufficient 

Under the existing tenancy standards, housing associations’ requirement to support local authorities in the execution of their homeless duties and to help sustain tenancies are not sufficient – we need to challenge housing associations on their nominations through homelessness channels.  If housing associations can’t provide housing and support for people who can’t afford the market, who can?  Unlocking access to social homes for people coming from homelessness is vital.  A code of practice around housing associations’ homelessness expectations based on the Homes for Cathy commitments could be beneficial.   

Processes can come before people 

In an environment where resources are scarce, processes can come before people and individual inconsistencies across organisations can ‘lock people out’.  Leaving the system to work itself out is not working – we need to look at ways providers can do better with regulatory accountability in the background.  One example cited was affordability assessments – as tenant support needs go up and housing-related support is squeezed, these need to be used as enablers and facilitators to give tenants access to the wider support system.   

Scottish RRTP example shows funding is a driver for partnership working 

In Scotland Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans (RRTPs), plans developed by each of the 32 local authorities to reduce the use of temporary accommodation, have created a driver for partnership working between local authorities and registered providers.  It’s proof that with political will and appropriate funding, homelessness can be alleviated (in 2019-20 the share of Scottish RP lettings to homeless households was 45%).  However, both the funding and the approach need to be long-term – we don’t always need to look for ‘shiny new things’ to make a difference. 

It’s a case of supply and demand 

Ultimately, we need more capital investment in housing to provide more social homes – it’s a case of supply and demand.  Currently we are using temporary accommodation as the default housing option.  Planning applications are already substantially down year-on- year.  We need housing associations to keep developing new social homes and not be creating any further development disincentives. 

Written by Vicki McDonald

Vicki is the Social Impact Manager at Hightown Housing Association and leads on communications and member engagement for the Homes for Cathy campaign.

Furniture provision ‘piece of the puzzle’ to sustainable tenancies as cost of living escalates

Social housing tenants moving on from homelessness should be offered a home, not just an empty box, writes Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, Research & Campaigns at End Furniture Poverty

Members of the Homes for Cathy alliance work tirelessly to end homelessness but at End Furniture Poverty we believe that there is a missing piece of the puzzle.

Homes for Cathy Commitment 7 says: “To ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into.” We believe that this means they should be offered a home, not just an empty box.

Furniture prices have risen by 50%

The vast majority of people moving on from homelessness will have no furniture or household appliances, or the resources to buy the items they need. The cost of furnishing a home is even more challenging now as furniture prices have risen by 50% over the past 10 years.

End Furniture Poverty has been supporting social landlords for several years, helping them to understand the benefits of a furnished tenancy scheme and to prepare business cases for new schemes.

We have now been able to take it one stage further thanks to funding from the Fusion21 Foundation and have produced a Blueprint for Furniture Provision in Social Housing.

This step-by-step guide helps landlords to understand how a furnished tenancy can work, how to set the appropriate service charge, and how to ensure that they can support their tenants who could otherwise be living without essential furniture items.

It explains how the capital cost of the furniture can be recouped through the service charge element of Universal Credit making schemes sustainable and allowing landlords to help many more tenants.

The Blueprint also examines the different ways furniture can be provided, through more traditional furnished tenancies, and also separate furniture rental agreements. It provides information on operations, staffing, data strategy and performance measurement, case studies on existing furniture provision, and a full financial modelling section.

Devastating impact of living without essential items

Living without essential furniture items has a devastating impact on people’s mental and physical health, and their social and financial wellbeing. Tenants can build up huge debt if they turn to high cost credit to buy items, leaving them unable to pay their rent, and even leading to tenancies failing.

In these challenging times, other sources of support are becoming much harder to access as more local welfare assistance schemes are being closed by local authorities and the grant giving charitable sector are becoming overwhelmed with applications.

We explored the extent of furniture provision in social housing in No Place like Home, a report published in 2021 which showed that only 2% of socially rented properties were let as fully or partly furnished, compared to 29% in the private rental sector and looked at the impact living without essential furniture was having on tenants, and on tenancies.

Some social landlords have pots of funding to support tenants to set up their home but this approach can be unsustainable and as budgets face further pressures in the months ahead, furnished tenancies can provide an ideal solution.

Conversations with landlords across the UK over the past year have shown that interest in furniture provision is growing as organisations realise that tenants are struggling to furnish their homes and much more help is needed and we hope our Blueprint will help many more to get schemes off the ground.

End Furniture Poverty are holding a webinar on Friday, 18th November, 10.30am to 11.30am, to talk through the steps outlined in the Blueprint. Ian Fyfe, Furnished Tenancy Manager from Torus, and Paul Aitkin, Group Commercial Manager at Karbon Homes, will also be sharing best practice from furnished tenancy schemes. Email to register to attend.

If you are unable to attend the webinar on November 18th, we are happy to meet with any landlords to offer one-to-one support. Just get in touch to find out more.

We are facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades and tenants urgently need support. Furnished tenancies provide a sustainable solution with benefits to landlord and tenants.

Quite simply, why wouldn’t you consider it?

Together we can End Furniture Poverty.

To view the Blueprint, visit

Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, Research & Campaigns at End Furniture Poverty

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

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

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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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).


  • 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

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

Everyone Out?

by Charlotte Murray, Director of Care, Health & Wellbeing, South Yorkshire Housing Association

The Government’s response to homelessness—particularly rough sleeping—when the first Covid-19 lockdown was announced was pretty amazing.  For the first time, the Government showed leadership in supporting homeless people and there was unity amongst people affected by homelessness, homelessness groups, local authorities, and housing associations.

In one weekend in March, all rough sleepers were offered housing.  No-one stopped to check immigration status, income levels or intentionality: everyone was offered a roof over their head.  Hotels, student halls of residence, and other shared accommodation were made available.  Some of it wasn’t ideal, but it was much better than the prospect of sleeping out, exposed to the pandemic.

Determination and sense of a common goal was maintained

In the months that followed, that determination and sense of a common goal was maintained.  It took many forms.  For example, civil servants began to shape programmes and new funding streams for permanent accommodation for homeless people, councils prioritised homelessness projects for nominations, and housing associations bent over backwards to provide a higher proportion of self-contained accommodation for these groups. 

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members.”  The test, though, isn’t what can be achieved in a crisis. It’s whether we can sustain our determination to end homelessness once and for all.

Short-term or one-off initiatives won’t cut it

This was the objective of Crisis’s brilliant report, Everybody In (2018).  The detail of its 250 pages means we need never ask ourselves again how we can end homelessness.  The report pulled together in one place best practice from around the world; we now know how to do it.  The report makes it clear that short-term or one-off initiatives won’t cut it.  There are many different causes of homelessness: poverty, mental illness, the lack of social housing and a dysfunctional housing market.  Initiatives have failed in the past because they adopt the ‘whack-a-mole’ approach, addressing an issue in one area for it to pop out somewhere else. 

Reports and announcements in recent weeks demonstrate that we’re relapsing back to a disjointed approach.  These include:

  • the debate regarding the possible termination of the additional Universal Credit payments of £20 per week
  • research by the New Economics Foundation warning that one third of the population will be living below the minimum socially acceptable standard of living by next Spring
  • the significant weakening of the eviction ban.
Crisis’ ‘Everybody In’ report pulls together best practice on homelessness

It’s not all bad news though.  There’s a clear Government commitment to provide access for rough sleepers to the vaccination programme.  The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has asked local authorities to ensure that homeless people can be protected from the virus and that they’re registered with GPs.  Local authorities have been asked to reach out once again to people who have previously refused their support.

One in four lettings by social landlords made to statutorily homeless

Similarly, recent HouseMark data shows over a quarter of social housing landlords are prioritising lettings to homeless people.  As a result, one in four lettings were made to households identified as statutorily homeless—equivalent to 9,000 households across the UK. The Next Steps Accommodation programme is increasing the number of homes and the support available to homeless people (for a maximum of two years, rather than a home for life but progress never the less).

SYHA's Cuthbert Bank supported accommodation houses homeless families in their own homes
SYHA’s Cuthbert Bank supported accommodation houses homeless families in their own homes

At SYHA, we’re keeping our voids work and lettings open to ensure we can house the most in need. We’re strictly following our ‘no evictions into street homelessness’ policy and working closely with local authorities to increase support and accommodation.

It sometimes feels like we’re standing on a street corner with a megaphone shouting, “Is anybody there?”  The leadership has gone.  SYHA and the other associations in the Homes for Cathy Group will continue to work in line with our values and commitments and challenge ourselves to do more, but we do need leadership, urgency—and, importantly, a long-term, joined up strategy.  The new Housing Minister, Eddie Hughes, reportedly brings with him a background in and “passion for” housing.  Great. Right now, we need someone with the vision and steady determination to continue the momentum built up in 2020. We are ready and waiting.

South Yorkshire Housing Association is a founding member of the Homes for Cathy group and offers safe and secure spaces for homeless people and families to live in.