The big issues for ending homelessness: what the Experts by Experience told us

Rosie Downes, Campaigns Manager

In April 2017, Crisis announced a big ambition: a plan to end homelessness, once and for all. Since then, we’ve been consulting far and wide to find out what changes are needed for us to end homelessness in Great Britain. We’ve held over 75 events and a written consultation, and we’ve spoken to over 1000 people, including people with experience of homelessness, policy experts and decision makers, to identify the key problems and solutions.

We identified over 90 policy recommendations through this process, which we refined down to 40 solutions across housing, welfare, justice, health and employment. These solutions include things that need to happen to prevent someone from becoming homeless in the first place; responding rapidly so when homelessness does happen there’s swift action to make sure it’s ended quickly, and making sure long term solutions are in place for people with more complex needs.

We’re now in the final stage of our consultation, which is all about consensus and prioritisation. We want to make sure that the solutions we’ve captured reflect what people have told us. We’ve also identified some of the big issues we believe are key to ending homelessness, and we want to find out if others agree that these are the things we should focus on, and which ones are the most important.

We’re inviting everyone who participated in the earlier stages of the consultation to give us their views via our website, and we’ve produced some guidance for organisations working with people with lived experience of homelessness to get their views, too. We’ve also run workshops with our Experts by Experience – Crisis volunteers with experience of being homeless – to find out what they think of the areas we’ve prioritised, and which they think are most important. In February, we held two workshops – one in London and one in York - with experts joining from a range of places including Cornwall, Coventry, Swansea, Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow.

At each workshop we discussed each of the policy areas which we’ve identified as being key parts of ending homelessness. Areas we talked about include reducing the gap between rent levels and benefits; preventing and tackling migrant homelessness, transforming public attitudes to homelessness, and improving employment support.

At both the sessions, the panels came through with some truly valuable insights from their own personal experiences and were never short of suggestions and opinions. We talked about issues with welfare, including the gap between Local Housing Allowance and rents, unfair sanctions, and not having the choice of Universal Credit payments going directly to the landlord, which can be a real challenge for people who don’t feel confident managing their finances. We discussed the need for people to have clear information about their rights and to know where to go if they are at risk of becoming homeless. We also talked about the need for standards – for example, standards around the quality of advice people can access about their rights, and also standards when it comes to quality of accommodation in the private rented sector. We discussed the problems with the legal definition “intentionally homeless” – where the council decides that you have lost your home because of something you deliberately do or fail to do – and the fact that no-one actually intends to make themselves homeless; it’s almost always due to circumstances beyond their control, but the legal framework - and often, the public – don’t recognise this.

At the end of each session, we asked the panel to score each of the areas, deciding which was the most important when it comes to ending homelessness. The results varied, but across the two groups three areas came out very strongly: getting people off the streets quickly with a more effective and supportive outreach system; making sure the benefits system works effectively to prevent homelessness; and a joined up government strategy to end homelessness at national and local levels. The insight from these sessions will be used to shape the final version of the Plan to End Homelessness, along with insight received via our online platform, which will be open until 9th March.

Huge thanks to our Experts by Experience for their valuable insight and contributions, and to everyone who’s participated in our consultation to date. We believe that together, we can end homelessness. But we’ll need Everybody In to make it happen. Sign up to find out more about the Plan to End Homelessness and hear about ways to get involved. 

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