Our second research network meeting started with a presentation from Professor Phillip Brown, Professor of Housing and Communities at the University of Huddersfield.
He spoke about his research on the impact of poor quality housing on occupants during the COVID-19 lockdown. It draws upon visual representations and semi-structured interviews with 50 residents living in poor- quality accommodation and eight professionals in the North of England. The project aimed to fill an urgent gap in knowledge and to undertake research with people who would be otherwise hidden, who are currently living in poor quality housing, in the private rented sector.
It is expected that this project will augment existing work being undertaken nationally to understand and respond to poor housing quality. More specifically it will also inform how care and support can be better directed, should shielding/lockdown continue or be reintroduced, where people are living in poor quality housing.
Next, we heard from Professor Gary Painter, Chair of the Department of Public Policy and Director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, University Southern California. He discussed Project RoomKey, a project in California seeking to offer 15,000 hotel rooms that were vacant due to COVID-19, to people experiencing homelessness. The aim of the program is to provide ‘non-congregate’ shelter and ultimately minimise the strain on hospital capacity across the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
The final presentation was from Dr Lígia Teixeira, CEO of the Centre for Homelessness Impact and Dr Peter Mackie, Reader at Cardiff University. They spoke about a study on “Understanding the relative effectiveness of temporary accommodation and settled housing on COVID-19 infections, housing stability and wider outcomes” The study, the first of its kind in the UK, is led by the Centre for Homelessness Impact and academics at Cardiff University. It will robustly assess which housing options are most likely to provide positive outcomes. This innovative partnership has been awarded funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, many people experiencing street homelessness were offered emergency accommodation to facilitate safe self-isolation. As local authorities now begin to make more suitable housing arrangements for those currently living in hotels and other emergency accommodation, this study will provide valuable insights into tackling homelessness and reducing COVID-19.
The second part of the meeting, included a discussion on the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion was based upon three key questions:
1) What are the key bits of evidence that policy makers need to be looking at and acting on?
2) What is emerging as the key gaps that exist?
3) Where do we see potential to tackle these gaps?
Some key takeaways from the discussion included the recognition that COVID-19 has meant a move away from homelessness prevention, the need for more evidence on what has been commissioned during COVID-19 to be able to scrutinise it and make decisions on it, and a lack of real-time data sharing across towns and cities in the US.
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