• Hebe Foster

Voices for Change: collaborating to combat homelessness

A ‘wicked’ problem

With an unprecedented sense of urgency, nearly 15,000 vulnerable people in the UK were supported into emergency accommodation in the early days of lockdown. The enthusiastic New York Times headline, which lauded the action for having ‘nearly ended street homelessness in the UK’, was tempered by its subtitle, ‘maybe not for long… what’s next?”

Hotels alone won’t solve this long-term crisis. Like many social issues, homelessness can be described as a ‘wicked problem’ - one that has so many complex, interlinked contributing factors that there is no one simple solution. As we look to the future, we believe that a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach, one that values real people’s lived experiences and voices, is needed to make real and lasting change.

Collaboration starts with relationships

At Telescope, we believe that meaningful collaboration starts with building meaningful relationships. As co-founder of Community Links David Robinson said, “It is not only possible for one human being to make a real and lasting impact on another - it is often, in the most difficult circumstances, the only thing that ever does”. We develop these links through running interactive workshops to bring together policymakers, frontline experts and people with lived experience of homelessness.

“We need to bring in a new understanding of how the context [of homelessness]

is changing.” - Frontline participant, States of Change festival

Last month we hosted a participatory workshop called ‘Voices for Change’ as part of the online Learning Festival created by States of Change, a collective supporting public innovation learning. By collaboratively mapping the journeys of people experiencing homelessness, alongside those of frontline staff and policymakers, workshop participants shared insights, built mutual understanding of each others’ challenges, and explored innovative opportunities for improving services in the context of Covid and beyond.

Value the expertise of lived experience

People with lived experience of challenges bring valuable insights to contribute to the policymaking process. We were delighted to collaborate on the workshop with Power With, a new social enterprise whose urgent mission is to integrate the voices and expertise of people who are experts by experience into improving homelessness services and policies.

Q: What would you do if you were in charge for the day? A:I would invest in building more social housing and supporting people into social housing… but also there needs to be some sort of cap on private rentals because even when I was working full-time and over I could afford my rent and barely anything else.” - Resident, St Mungo’s

We have made an ongoing commitment at Telescope to co-design with those at the sharp end of social challenges, to provide inclusive and empowering opportunities for people to share their experiences and recommendations for change.

Looking to the future

At Telescope, we want to ensure that this partnership working becomes a positive legacy of the Covid-19 crisis. We are launching a 6-week peer-learning Connect programme this Autumn that will bring together frontline experts, policymakers and people with lived experience in the homelessness sector.

Please contact us if you are interested in taking part in this online programme, or if you have ideas to help us shape it to create positive and lasting change.

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