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The second in a series of blogs tracking Torbay’s journey to end street homelessness.

Stuart Bakewell, from Shekinah Mission, talks about how being part of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign has helped them transform the way they work in Torbay, to ensure that people are supported to stay in homes and off the streets. 

A primary motivation for joining the European End Street Homelessness Campaign was the recognition that in Torbay, despite the sustained efforts of multiple services, there were a significant number of people trapped in a cycle of repeat homelessness. This is often complicated by intersecting experiences of trauma, problematic drug use, offending behaviour and poor mental health.

We realised that if we were to assist people to find permanent solutions, we needed to take a different approach: one that could stop this cycle by providing safe, secure homes for people, along with the flexible, open-ended support required to build and sustain good lives.

This meant constructively challenging ourselves about established practice and posing the question ‘what might we need to do differently?’. Our involvement in the campaign has assisted with coalescing our efforts. And the opportunity to learn from the other cities has been invaluable in helping us to reach some important conclusions.

So, for example, following an inspiring visit with Discus in Amsterdam, we adapted our recruitment process to really focus on people’s attitudes and motivations. We wanted to broaden our pool of applicants and bring a different mix of skills and vitality into the Housing First team.

And, through learning from other campaign cities – working to build a robust local network of community groups and smaller charities through the Torbay End Street Homelessness campaign – there is now a coherent, community-led response that has strong support from local businesses, as well as cross-party political backing within the Council and from our local MP.

All stakeholders are supportive of developing housing-led/Housing First responses to homelessness.  And as well as initiating the Housing First service, we have also been able to make good use of the Rough Sleeper Initiative and Rapid Re-housing funding to complement these wider developments and begin making the big changes needed to end street homelessness in Torbay.

Whilst there are still substantial challenges that we need to overcome to ensure long-term success – particularly around securing a supply of affordable and stable accommodation, and in consolidating the improved levels of co-ordination between agencies and services – we have undoubtedly made significant progress, which wouldn’t have been possible without the campaign.

Finally, and with continued support from World Habitat, we are currently undertaking an evaluation which will capture our progress and learning to date and inform the future direction of service development. It’s an exciting time for those of us working to make street homelessness a thing of the past across Torbay.

To hear more about the European End Street Homelessness Campaign cities, sign-up to our newsletter here.

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