Now we’re into 2024, it’s been a nice time to reflect on the year that was 2023.
The only place to start is with a big THANK YOU to all colleagues (more than 80!) directly working in the Greater Manchester Housing First partnership and all those in the wider services that are integral to delivering Housing First.
Providing support to individuals that have experienced multiple disadvantages is hard due to the systemic barriers faced when trying to help people get the support they deserve, with last year feeling particularly difficult due to heightening contextual challenges such as the cost of living crisis, lack of affordable housing plus under-resourced statutory services.
Despite these challenges, our teams persist in providing trauma-informed support and continue to help people change their lives and have achieved some fantastic outcomes.
We asked our teams to describe themselves in three words: 'Resilient; dedicated; empowering; pioneering; compassionate; genuine; different; multi-skilled; dynamic; enthusiastic; caring; collaborative and committed. Doing things differently’ are amongst the responses that came back, and this perfectly sums up what I see and hear about on a daily basis leading this partnership.
We started 2023 reporting that 36 people had sustained tenancies for more than three years, and finish the year with 98 people now having been in homes of their own for over three years, and a further 75 people for over two years.
That’s a huge achievement - 173 people who together have decades of experiencing homelessness have now been securely housed for more than a couple of years. This is not only having a positive impact on their lives but we also see the intergenerational impact of Housing First support with family relationships being re-built.
In April, we saw our co-production panel curate an Art Exhibition entitled ‘Safe as Houses’ with pieces representing what safe and secure housing meant to them, along with staging a Legislative Theatre performance (pictured above) in front of an audience of over 60 that highlighted the systemic barriers people experience when their children are removed from their care.
In May, the Homelessness Programme Board agreed with the recommendation for the Greater Manchester Housing First delivery to remain with our partnership until March 2025. This was following a full review of options by a Task and Finish group made up of representatives from the Local Authorities, housing and health, which is a testament to the strength of our approach and all that has been achieved so far.
This year we also had the pleasure of meeting two Shadow Homelessness Ministers, Paula Barker and Mike Amesbury, to discuss how we have delivered Housing First at scale in our region and the successes and challenges we have faced whilst positioning some key lobbying asks for national delivery of Housing First.
We then finished the year with the privilege of co-hosting the national Housing First conference with Homeless Link and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which saw over 200 people descend on Manchester to learn and share good practice from experiences of delivering Housing First from services across the country and internationally.
When asked what they were most proud of working in our partnership and providing Housing First support a flavour of what our delivery teams said was:
"The way we work together for the betterment of the people we work with."
"The team never gives up and that’s something to be proud of."
"With each person, we have been able to make a difference – no matter how small – that has helped to better their lives and given them a sense of pride in their achievements."
"The partnership provides a pioneering offer to the people who need it most and we have been recognised nationally by being invited to speak all over the UK."
In 2024 we will see the programme enter its sixth year of delivery with some key challenges ahead due to funding insecurity with the current funding due to end in March 2025.
We asked our delivery teams what advice they would give to other people working in the Multiple Disadvantage space or about to start, and I hope we actually all follow this sound advice when we return to face 2024:
"Expect the unexpected and don’t have any expectations."
"Have confidence in the skills in your team."
"Find solutions and continue to change the narrative about the people we work with. No-one should be defined by their homelessness."
"The best piece of advice is to be flexible. Humans are individuals and this isn’t a one size fits all service.’
‘Get used to being comfortably uncomfortable and try and manage what can often feel like chaos – but don’t do this on your own!"
"Given the nature of the programme, as it’s been borne out of a test and learn pilot, we won’t always get things right so we need to keep learning and keep being innovative to help people now and in the future."
"Keep going! and always keep people at the centre of everything you are doing."
Thanks for all the hard work.