Housing & Homelessness

LockdownLIVEs

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LockdownLIVEs: Co-Production and Creative Advocacy during Covid-19

By Katy Rubin, LockdownLIVEs

When the pandemic hit, the first priority for the Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network and the GMCA was to ensure that GM residents in hostels or rough sleeping would be able to self-isolate and stay safe. The next priority has been to direct food, health care and other essential services to these emergency accommodations. While this urgent work has been underway, the needs for creative expression, co-produced research, and a sense of connection were also increasingly pressing.

In mid-April, the LockdownLIVEs project was born, in collaboration with the GMHAN and Street Support Network. LockdownLIVEs is a docu-series co-created by GM residents in emergency and temporary accommodation during the pandemic. The project aims to creatively connect people who are self-isolating in emergency accommodation; and help the broader public understand how this crisis affects those who don’t have their own homes. All GM residents experiencing homelessness are invited to submit 1-minute videos, poems, drawings, and photos about what life is like right now. The submissions are edited into twice-weekly, themed episodes that air on social media (@StreetSupportUK and @LockdownLIVES) on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3pm. LockdownLIVEs aims to offer an opportunity for viewing and discussion online, to help build community over the weeks and months that the lockdown continues.

LockdownLIVEs video screen grab for GM Poverty Action

In the first three weeks, five episodes have been released addressing the challenges of communicating with GPs and support workers over the phone, and the resulting feelings of isolation and anxiety; the experience of food insecurity, and not having choice about your own diet; the frustration when those around aren’t observing social distancing; and the added anxiety when the government is unclear about their response. There have also been examples of collaboration, beauty and hope: residents in hotels bringing music back to the lockdown; working together (with masks and gloves) to build planters for flowers; and sharing humorous poems about what to watch (or not watch) on TV.

Project coordinators have heard from staff at front-line organisations that watching these videos at the end of a workday has been both emotional and encouraging; overall, the project has been received with enthusiasm from staff and residents. Some residents don’t have access to devices or data to send content, so staff are helping to coordinate the submissions; additionally, the Mayor’s Charity and other groups are endeavouring to distribute more devices and data, as internet access is crucial in the current moment.

The LockdownLIVEs team is working with other groups conducting research, so that co-produced reporting and artistic expression can support more formal evaluation efforts.  A final video product will tie various themes together, to be used as an advocacy tool. Upcoming episodes will dive deeper into the experience and help shed light on what’s working in the GM response to covid-19; what’s not working; and what GM residents experiencing homelessness hope will happen next.

Katy Rubin, LockdownLIVEs article for GM Poverty Action

Katy Rubin

Currently, the team, consisting of Jez Green of Mustard Tree, Katy Rubin, an arts-and-policy strategist, and Alex Bower, video editor, are working to spread the word to include a diversity of voices in the project. Any organisation supporting emergency or temporary accommodation is very welcome to participate: new prompts go out on Tuesdays and Fridays, and staff or residents can send any content – videos, images, poems – via WhatsApp or text message to Katy at 07926 358983, or email. Watch and share past videos via Vimeo.com/lockdownlives, and reach out with any other inquiries or suggestions.

 

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Passport to Housing

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Passport to Housing

By Clare Maskrey

Over the last fifteen months Bolton’s Money Skills Service and Furniture 4U (part of Bolton Council) have been delivering a programme of ‘pre-tenancy’ sessions to residents in supported and temporary accommodation to teach them about sustaining a future tenancy.

The aims of the project are to provide residents with the essential tools, skills and knowledge to maintain their tenancies and to educate them on their tenancy rights and responsibilities and make sure they are ‘tenancy ready’ before they move into their own homes.

The Passport to Housing is delivered direct to residents via 1-2-1 sessions over several weeks with each session lasting around an hour and covering one or two topics such as budgeting and banking, furniture options, a pre-residency check list, energy efficiency, value for money and credit repair and understanding a wage slip.

Feedback from those who have taken part in the programme has been excellent with everyone saying that they felt more confident, particularly around budgeting and energy consumption, with many applying for Warm Home Discount, switching their supplier and buying energy savings bulbs.  Their awareness of the alternatives to high street lending or rent to own schemes has meant that none had bought furniture on payment plans.

One gentleman who attended the session said he had found it very useful and was now fanatical about switching things off at the sockets. He said that he was able to read the meters correctly and the knowledge gained helped him notice when there was a problem. He felt confident raising issues with his supplier.

A staff member at a hostel in Bolton who provide supported housing to young people and their children, promoting independence and enabling them to sustain their own tenancy said: “I met with Money Skills initially to learn more about their service and the Passport to Housing scheme. A Money Skills team member came into the hostel for around 3 months to work with some of our most vulnerable customers.  During that time, they met on a weekly basis, supplementing the support that we offer. Using their expertise and connections they were also able to signpost some of our customers to other relevant services such as ‘Furniture4U’ who also worked closely alongside us.

They understood that some of our customers are dealing with some complex and challenging personal issues and circumstances and they took this into consideration when helping our customers to budget and plan for various different outcomes. They were kind, friendly and approachable and The Passport to Housing idea was welcomed by our customers, one of whom said ‘everyone should make sure they do the Passport to Housing Course because it helps you so much’.  We would always welcome them back!”

 

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GM Housing Providers Poverty Pledges

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GMFPA logo

GM Housing Providers report regularly on their attempts to tackle poverty (GM Housing Providers Spring 2019 Anti-Poverty Newsletter), and this month their pledges have been revamped to include many specific commitments to make the Food Poverty Action Plan a reality.  These include:

Action to reduce the “poverty premium”. We have pledged to work in partnership locally to identify the best deals for our customers on services such as access to technology, broadband and essentials such as white goods, furniture and clothing and to actively market these lower cost options.

Increase fuel vouchers provision and affordable white goods to ensure people have the fuel and equipment needed to cook meals. We have pledged to promote initiatives designed to reduce energy bills  and to improve access to financial advice and services for existing and prospective tenants

Establish more food clubs/food pantries, especially in areas that lack affordable healthy food. Housing providers already work with and support many of the Pantry type projects in GM and we have pledged to support the expansion of models that divert food waste.  We will also coordinate an effort which will support the expansion of bulk buy food and support further coordination of food banks and the development of food co-ops.

Open up unused land for food to be grown for community use and help to grow food for community use. We have pledged to increase initiatives to grow and access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.

Show leadership in tackling low pay, insecure work, and unemployment – become accredited Real Living Wage employers – We have pledged to do this with over half of GM housing providers now accredited.

Develop and implement local procurement policies to source supplies locally, including but not limited to food. We have pledged to adopt a consistent approach to maximising the value of our procurement and supply chain by adopting and implementing the principles in the GMCA Social Value Policy.

All Local Authorities and Housing Associations should pledge to invest in new social housing. We have pledged to work collaboratively on development sites and schemes to maximise impact and reduce costs and continue to prioritise the delivery of low cost rented housing.

 

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Real Change Rochdale

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New campaign to tackle homelessness launches in Rochdale Borough
by the Sanctuary Trust

Earlier this month, Sanctuary Trust launched a new campaign in Rochdale giving people the chance to donate towards a fund which buys practical items for people who are homeless – things like a deposit for a home, enrolment on a training course or new clothes for a job interview.

The campaign involves many local partners who will access the fund, and the Sanctuary Trust’s Pass It On scheme are proud to be leading it. Pass It On provides training and development opportunities for people who’ve experienced homelessness or related issues, so they know first-hand what it takes to make that ‘real change’ to our lives. With Real Change Rochdale, they are now providing the things to help others do the same.

Real change Rochdale for GM Poverty Action
Real Change is an ‘alternative giving’ model, offering members of the public who are worried about homelessness a way to give other than in the streets. By doing so their money can go further by joining with other people’s donations to buy bigger items, as well as the long-term support provided by charities and voluntary groups. That’s what has been seen from the campaign in Wigan & Leigh which started last year, as well as the long-running Big Change MCR initiative.

The aim of the fund is to help overcome the poverty gap which GMPA has persuasively demonstrated. Too often, the hard work that people who are homeless (and those supporting them) put in to change their lives falls flat for want of a small amount of money. This flexible funding pot gets this to them as quickly as possible so that no one needs be homeless or beg in the streets.

To provide these grants they need to fundraise, though! They had raised nearly £1500 before they even launched – with the help of partners such as Rochdale Sixth Form College who won our ‘Real Change Champions’ trophy for their efforts – but they will need more than that to keep going. Over the coming weeks they will be out talking to local people, businesses, faith groups, community groups and more, and if you would like to help you can:

•  Donate through the BigGive

•  Share the Campaign on your social media pages

•  Invite Real Change to your workplace, event or community group

•  Do your own fundraising for Real Change

More info is on their website. Individually, everyone can all do a bit, and together we can make a Real Change!

John Wigley, Brian Duffy, Mike O’Day & Tony McManus (Real Change Co-Chairs, Sanctuary Trust Pass It On scheme)

 

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