I’ve lost track of the number of conversations that my team and I have with concerned members of the public about what is happening in Glasgow about homelessness. The recent rise in visibility of rough sleeping is certainly cause for concern and it’s a subject our new Connect magazine will address – published Thursday 2 March.
For now however, let me encourage you that a huge amount of behind the scenes work is going on to not only tackle homelessness, but to end it.
It is our belief that genuine in-roads will be made possible by working in partnership with other organisations – it is too big a social problem for any one organisation or sector to tackle on its own.
Following a visit to Glasgow City Mission by the Church of Scotland Moderator, the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, impressed at what he saw, invited me to speak to the Scottish Parliament this week at an event titled “Homelessness: the need for collective endeavour”.
I was humbled to be given an opportunity to speak about some of the work of Glasgow City Mission. We’ve demonstrated success in our practical work capturing the attention of the local authority, and spoken up for change in the system. Now future changes seem to have been impacted by our contribution.
Well over 70 delegates attended the reception with representation from MSPs, the Church and the third sector.
Iain Gordon, CEO of Bethany Christian Trust, called on the Scottish Government to be more ambitious with the speed and scale of its house building programme. Highlighting the direct connection between those who are rough sleeping with those in waiting in temporary accommodation. Iain clearly articulated the need for more housing to come quickly in order to give people secure permanent homes who are in the pipeline of temporary accommodation.
I was able to share about the work of Housing First, an accommodation model supporting people with complex needs proven to work with people in North America and Northern Europe. It’s a model that sees people literally receive their house first, then receive the necessary wrap-around support. Until now, the opposite takes place, requiring people to work their way up a ladder of various types of housing settings, rehabs and health provisions and if they get to the top and ‘pass’, they receive a home of their own.
Turning Point Scotland has been piloting Housing First over the past few years and have seen some significant results. In some North American cities where it’s been used effectively, homelessness has been wiped out. Glasgow City Mission has been keen advocates of the model as a result of this significant evidence base. Glasgow City Council has now adopted this approach and is now shaping a significant amount of housing provision within the Housing First model.
City Ambition Network
If anything has shown the benefit of a collective endeavour, it has been the work of CAN (City Ambition Network), a network Glasgow City Mission has co-founded. Through sharing data and working closely in partnership across health, social work services and the third sector, we’ve been able to see marked improvements for the people taking part in the CAN pilot: people are sustaining tenancies, remaining engaged, and have renewed hope and aspiration.
Like Housing First, CAN has flipped conventional wisdom on its head and seeks to shape services around the individual, rather than expect or force someone with complex needs to play to the tune of the system.
We wrote about Paula in our Summer edition of Connect, a 26-year old woman who experienced a ten-year merry go round of prison, rehab, housing and chaos. Thanks to CAN’s joined up approach, when she was last released from prison, she was connected straight to settled accommodation – something one might be forgiven for thinking should happen but simply doesn’t – and as a result, has enjoyed a more stable, settled life. Before the existence of CAN, “I would end up homeless, waiting on accommodation for weeks and would feel like I was back at square one” says Paula. “I’d pick up my addictions and chaotic lifestyle again”.
CAN is a hugely significant initiative and has the potential to really grow and see more people’s lives changed and transformed.
Glasgow Winter Night Shelter
The Glasgow Winter Night Shelter has been modelling partnership working over seven years now. With over a dozen active partners, we’ve taken learning from each year and improved on how collaboration can provide better results for people in our city battling homelessness.
This year, we’ve been able to see yet more improvements by having local authority homelessness caseworkers stationed within the night shelter. This means people don’t need to make two trips to different parts of the city to make a homelessness application – it can happen under the one roof, speeding up the accommodation process. It’s another example of shaping services around the person. There is a growing mood for partnership in the city and Glasgow City Mission has played a significant role in modelling partnership and advocating for it.
Historically, the method the council used to pay for different homelessness services didn’t create an environment conducive for collaboration. Glasgow City Mission, whilst not in receipt of council funding, has showcased through the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter and our participation in the City Ambition Network, that collaborative working improves the lives of those we’re trying to help. Subsequently, a fundamentally different model of partnership working is now at the very centre of how homelessness services will be structured and paid for.
There are many challenges ahead for the homelessness sector. Is there more that can and should be done? Undoubtedly. Should we have people sleeping on our streets or have to go through the struggles that they face in 2017? Absolutely not. But the pendulum of change in the city is moving in the right direction through working together and putting people at the heart of the matter. Be encouraged.
Grant Campbell, Chief Executive.