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Moving on from temporary accommodation

Moving on from temporary accommodation

Moving on from temporary accommodation

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Photo: Community Campus 87

Ellie McLaren, Communications Officer for Changing Lives, writes about a recent Be the Change Frontline Network event which looked at moving on from temporary accommodation. 

Last month frontline workers in the housing and homelessness sector from across the North East gathered for a Be the Change Frontline Network event in Middlesbrough.

In anticipation of the Homelessness Reduction Act coming into force in April 2018, the theme of the day was how frontline workers can help people access suitable accommodation for their needs.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (coming into effect in April 2018) will place new legal duties on English councils so everyone who is homeless, or at risk of homelessness, will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance.

Currently local authorities in England are required to make enquiries to establish what duty, if any, is owed to someone seeking homelessness assistance. As part of their investigations, they must determine if the person has a priority need for support.

Non-priority need households, which are most likely to be single people without children, or childless couples, are owed the advice and assistance duty only, which means the local authority has no legal requirement to find suitable accommodation for them.

The Act means people placed in Unsupported Temporary Accommodations (UTAs), such as private hostels and B&Bs, will have a legal right to meaningful help and access to other accommodation to better suit their needs, whereas currently they don’t have this legal backing.

Unsupported Temporary Accommodation (UTAs)

Currently UTAs can be deemed a housing solution, which means that once a person has a roof over their head, there is no longer any legal need for the local authority.

Christa Maciver and Rachel Yates, from the Research and Policy team at national hidden homeless charity Justlife, gave a presentation about their research into the experience of living in a UTA.

We heard from Chris, a gentleman who lived in a B&B in Manchester and had been a resident of this ‘temporary’ accommodation for 36 years. Many residents reported that when they had been placed in a UTA, they felt abandoned and forgotten by support services, and without support, they were trapped. One person in the research described living in a UTA “worse than being on the streets”.

Government statistics show that over 51,000 people are living in B&Bs across the country, however, Justlife believe this is an underestimation of the current landscape. Some areas of the North East don’t have a visible homeless community because of the abundance of bed spaces in UTAs.

For example, in Sunderland, Changing Lives supports many people who have a roof over their head, but not the right support to help them move on from temporary accommodation and into independent living. Frontline workers from Middlesbrough expressed similar experiences, and shared these frustrations in how to create a positive pathway through these accommodations to get the best outcome for the individual.

Temporary Accommodation Boards (TABs)

Justlife provided one potential solution in their presentation. Following their research, which saw them conduct intensive interviews with 45 residents in UTAs over a three-year period, Justlife set up Temporary Accommodation Boards (TABs) to improve living standards in temporary accommodation and to create pathways out of UTAs and into more suitable accommodation.

TABs have already been set up in Brighton and Manchester, where Justlife deliver the majority of their support. The Boards bring together everyone involved in UTAs to work collaboratively for the best solutions, including: residents, landlords, local authorities, health providers, and voluntary organisations. Creating a forum where residents and landlords could talk face-to-face proved effective, however there is still a way to go with this model. For example, without having an organisation who is responsible overall for the strategy and actions from the TAB, it can become just a talking shop rather than an innovative forum for change.

Community Campus 87

Another potential solution to helping people access suitable accommodation came from Community Campus 87, based in Stockton-on-Tees. Community Campus 87 is a community-based social enterprise providing affordable housing and support for young people, as well as training and employment opportunities. The company was set up in 1987 in response to the housing crisis facing young people in Teesside.

Community Campus 87 purchase empty homes across the region, renovate them, and then use them as supported housing for young people who are at risk of homelessness. Not only does this model provide safe and secure accommodation for vulnerable people, it also improves neighbourhoods by renovating empty properties, and engages the community.

Community Campus 87 also provide training opportunities and apprenticeships to their residents: they can train in construction or decorating and help renovate the homes they live in too.

This model was enthusiastically received by delegates at our event, particularly because of its ethos of empowering residents and engaging the local community. A crucial part of grassroots, community-led housing is giving a purpose to individuals and the community, operating on an assets-based approach.

Conclusion

We had delegates from housing and homelessness services, drug and alcohol services, the PCC’s office, the DWP, and youth services, in attendance in Middlesbrough: having participants from diverse organisations with different experiences, supporting homeless clients in some way, allowed for some innovative brainstorming and there were discussions around building and strengthening relationships with landlords, and how to empower residents to know their options and make informed decisions.

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