Housing associations will play a vital role in eradicating homelessness

With Welsh housing associations playing a major role in helping homeless people into safe and secure homes, Clare Budden CEO of ClwydAlyn, explains how social housing can prevent and eventually eradicate homelessness in Wales.

We are living in unprecedented times. Never before in our lifetimes have we been so quickly plunged into a crisis that has impacted every single person in one way or another. However, as the saying goes; “it is during our darkest moments we must focus to see the light”.  

From my experience, collaboration is always at the heart of a good idea, and there is no better time to build solid partnerships than during an emergency.

The pandemic and need for quick action has helped to develop positive relationships between housing associations, local authorities and third sector parties as we work together to tackle the homelessness crisis.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, we have worked creatively together to bring 800 people who are sleeping rough indoors, ensuring they have adequate shelter and access to support. 

The need to work at considerable speed has meant we have focused on the bigger picture rather than the detail. Our focus has been on outcomes rather than processes; a positive step forward in how we work together.

With this new funding we have been given an opportunity to accelerate our work forward. To do this effectively for those 800 people and more, it’s important we learn from this time, and continue working in the way we have done as we move into the second phase. 

At ClwydAlyn we are committed to ending homelessness and can promise the following: 

We will house more homeless people 

We will house even more homeless people into permanent accommodation. This is possible if the appropriate support is being provided so that people are supported to thrive in their homes. We also will repair and re-let properties as quickly as possible to increase supply. 

We will continue to not evict into homelessness

We have reduced evictions by 85%, with only four “evictions” in the past 12 months, and none of these caused homelessness for the households affected. 

We’ve achieved this by focusing on looking for positive solutions and taking a compassionate approach such as offering a supported housing placement for one case.

Our strategy has switched so that it is now more focused on prevention and acting quickly to address low-level arrears and early tenancy failure.

We are working much better with statutory and third-sector partners to avoid tenancy failure. 

We will prioritise moving people from Temporary Accommodation to long term housing 

Research shows having a safe and secure home has positive impacts on people’s health, connections and prosperity.

Our aim is to ensure people have a place to call home for the long term, and we will work with councils to ensure those who are ready are given sufficient priority on waiting lists.

This means we can focus our temporary accommodation on people who need access to more intensive support and services.  

We will reconfigure our support services 

We will shape our services so skills are matched to need. This means those being supported are given the best chance of success.  

Partnership working

None of our aims can be achieved alone, and collaboration is absolutely vital to ensuring homelessness is wiped out. 

In addition to working flexibly and focusing on outcomes instead of rigid processes, we also promise to support local authorities with strategic and operational planning for phase two. 

We will also help to draw up individual housing plans for those of the 800 we are working with to ease pressure on the local authorities who are stretched beyond all recognition.

In addition, our teams know the homelessness legislation and the residents well already. 

We are also keen to work with local authorities to make more homes available. 

We will make sure to provide the right mix of accommodation and will use our financial capacity and Government grant support to buy empty properties and stalled market sale properties (to prevent housing market failure). 

We will reconfigure and remodel redundant retail/commercial in town centres; improve existing temporary accommodation to provide en-suite (first priority) and cooking facilities where possible.

We will talk to health and universities to lease empty student/doctor and nurses accommodation and lease properties from the Private Rented Sector.

All of this work is ambitious. And during an unparalleled moment in history it is definitely testing. However, we believe we can achieve this work if our experience and practice of the last ten weeks is built on further.

Through this sheer determination, passion and collaboration we can work together to move 800 people into their forever homes. What a legacy that will be. 

Housing associations and local authorities across Wales have committed to ensuring tenants get the support they need during the Coronavirus crisis. To read more about these commitments please see here.

Clare Budden is CEO of ClwydAlyn Housing.

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