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In 2020 Newcastle City Council were honoured to receive the World Habitat Gold award on behalf of the work of partners in the city to prevent homelessness. Here, Neil Munslow MBE, Service Manager – Action Inclusion explains why the award created confidence in their approach and strengthened their resolve.

‘Winning the Award created confidence that despite our focus being on upstream prevention that differs from the UK national government’s focus on crisis responses our approach was positively regarded by experts in the field.

The prestige comes from the legacy of past winners, the integrity of World Habitat, the rigour of the evaluation process and the standing of the judges including Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat and Leilani Farha, Chief Executive of The Shift and a former UN Special Rapporteur.

The World Habitat judges said:

Newcastle’s approach has prevented over 24,000 households from becoming homeless since 2014. Poverty and deprivation were already long-standing issues in the city before a decade-long programme of austerity. There are things that others can learn from this project, in particular linking housing, homelessness, the voluntary sector, social care and welfare – there’s no way you can end homelessness unless you make those links.”

We have maintained this approach as seen in our relatively low levels of households in temporary accommodation. In June 2022 the UK Government published data showing that there were 8,312 children in temporary accommodation in Birmingham, 3,649 in Manchester and 57 in Newcastle. This has been challenging in the context of increased demand related to the cost of living and refugee crises and the reduced supply of available housing related to policies like right to buy and low levels of affordable house building.

The Award strengthened our resolve to consolidate our focus on what was right to respond to the demand and supply challenges our residents and city face. This includes a policy of no evictions into homelessness, multiagency allocations and sustainability panels, a ready to live programme of bringing back into use long term voids, a whole housing system approach, Psychologically Informed Environment support from our two main landlords an Active Inclusion Newcastle Programme to include Safeguarding and health services.

The World Habitat Gold Award winner receives support for developing a knowledge exchange programme. Consolidating our work and partnership arrangements has been helped by developing a knowledge exchange programme, with ff.studio to articulate our work in a transferable way. This process helped us to consolidate priorities and to strengthen local partnerships.

We hope the knowledge exchange programme inspires other cities by communicating the core components of Newcastle’s Active Inclusion Newcastle partnership approach to homelessness prevention. The programme aims to help other cities to think about how they prevent homelessness in the context of their own demand and supply challenges.

We have presented our homelessness prevention knowledge exchange at the United Nations and the Feantsa European Homelessness Conference and at several UK conferences as well as hosting visits. This reflective practice has been helpful in refining our work and we would like to meet more cities interested in preventing homelessness, if you’d like to take this up, please contact activeinclusion@newcastle.gov.uk.


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