Nurturing networks to tackle homelessness

By Sue Coulson                                                                                                                                                   18th May 2021

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of networks in tackling homelessness. Resilience was the theme of an absorbing series of debates hosted by the Centre for Homelessness Impact this week.


The events certainly had an impact, not least because we heard from people with lived experience of homelessness.

Kirsty described in uncomfortable detail the reality of living with children in a women’s refuge, surrounded by the effects of trauma and poor mental health. We also heard powerful testimony from Jade, who became unexpectedly homeless after losing her job during the pandemic. She found her support network of friends was out of reach in lockdown.

“I would have used Google to find what services were available, but without a charged phone I didn’t know where to look,” she said, referring to that other kind of network that we all rely on.

Having shared her story, Jade got the chance to question the homelessness minister, Eddie Hughes MP. With remarkable poise, she challenged him to improve access for homeless young people with no experience of public services.

What we need, said the minister, drawing on his own experience of working at a YMCA, is intensive support and not one-off interventions. “Some people we are working with are having some real difficulties, and sometimes they demand and need our patience and understanding.”

Absolutely! I am so reassured to hear this from the minister. We know from our experience of working with private landlords in London is that families need ongoing support if the tenancy is going to be a success.

Our job is to ensure families can put down roots and have their support network around them, and their children can carry on going to school. Talking about resilience this week made me realise more than ever that tackling homelessness means so much more than finding a house. We need the partnerships, relationships and collaboration to enable people develop effective support networks while ensuring housing decisions do not damage the networks they already have so these houses become homes.

Just ask Jade or Kirsty

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