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September 13, 2021

Building a ‘what works’ movement to end homelessness for good

Rob Anderson

To achieve the goal of ending homelessness in the United Kingdom we need three things. 

First, we need a better evidence base on what works. There is remarkably little high quality research to measure the impact of interventions to relieve and prevent homelessness. Most of this limited body of research has been undertaken in the United States. Do we know if they would work in the UK? The only way to be sure is to test them here.

Second, we must put what limited evidence we have into practice. This is hard to do and requires a change in thinking amongst practitioners and communities working with people experiencing homelessness to embrace new evidence-led ways of doing things and to learn, adapt and try again if interventions aren’t effective.

And third, we must ensure that people and organisations who embrace such a new evidence-led way of working do not do so in isolation. Success stories must be shared. So too must setbacks, in order that we learn lessons from them. This means connecting people who share a similar approach to their work, building a culture that engages with evidence by instinct, and mobilising a movement for change.

The Centre for Homelessness Impact was set up in 2018 to work in these three ways to achieve our goal of ending homelessness for good in the UK. 

We have achieved much since then but can now accelerate our work further with the second and third of these elements thanks to our new partnership with Comic Relief. Through its Change Makers programme, Comic Relief will give £600,000 over a three-year period to enable the expansion of our work with local authorities and charities working in homelessness and several new initiatives to build awareness of what works to end homelessness. CHI will contribute a similar sum to the partnership to further develop our capacity-building work.

In our three years we have found a strong commitment to evidence-based ways of working among frontline staff and leaders in local authorities and community organisations. But it requires a new set of skills to implement this approach in work to relieve and prevent homelessness and ongoing support to sustain a culture of learning.It also requires focussing far more on the perspectives and experiences from people who have experienced homelessness.

Our partnership with Comic Relief will enable us to engage with organisations working to end homelessness across the whole of the UK through our What Works Community initiative, working with them to identify what works, translate evidence into practical insights, and deliver greater impact for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Working with a wide range of organisations, from large regional authorities to grassroots voluntary and community groups, we aim to build a coalition of practitioners equipped with new skills and tools to end homeless. . 

It will also enable us to develop and support a strong network of people with lived experience of homelessness to provide advice on and shape our work and that of our partners advice and on our work. This consultancy will be built-in at the start of projects and sustained throughout to enable meaningful engagement and involvement. And we will work with people who have experienced homelessness to share their insights, using story-telling and film-making techniques in order to build a wider understanding of what works to end homelessness.

We will also expand our End It With Evidence campaign to create a movement of people working in homelessness and beyond who share our approach of using data and research evidence to test and learn what works and what does not. To build support for this vision we will extend our group of campaign Ambassadors and work with more senior practitioners, experts, influencers and leaders in the homelessness sector.

Our Impact Forum, which brings together experts and practitioners working in homeslessness across the world, will be held twice a year to support and showcase this expansion of our capacity-building work alongside other regular events.

As part of this growth, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the CHI team with exciting new roles.

We are currently recruiting for a Practice and Partnerships Lead to work directly with organisations tackling homelessness and help them identify the right problems and use evidence to design better solutions to homelessness. This will involve working with national and local government, charities and community organisations and groups. Find out more and apply for the Practice and Partnerships Lead.

We will be appointing an Events and Marketing Lead to develop CHI’s events programme and share our work with key partner organisations through a varied and inspirational programme of events and marketing. A key responsibility will be organising our twice-yearly Impact Forum. Find out more about how to apply for the Events and Marketing Lead position.

We will also be recruiting a Public Affairs Lead to head our engagement with key audiences in Scotland and support our public affairs work across the United Kingdom. The will involve developing strong relationships with the Scottish Government, politicians and decision-makers in Scotland and elsewhere. View the job description and apply on our website.

Further appointments to the CHI team will be announced later this year.

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