London Housing Foundation has launched a series of webinars exploring the views and experiences of leaders and influencers in the housing and homelessness world in London.
“A conversation with…” is an informal setting for emerging leaders in the homelessness sector who have graduated from the leadership and management programme developed by LHF with the LSBU to hear from those who have played a key role in policy making or developing initiatives. Lasting less than 90 minutes, the idea is to allow for genuine debate to take place and learning to be shared across the sectors with the focus being on personal, candid experience and interaction with an informed audience.
The first “A conversation with…” was held recently. Jeremy Swain, LHF board member, previously CEO of Thames Reach and an advisor to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government hosted a discussion with Catherine Bennion, Deputy Director, Rough Sleeping, MHCLG and Debra Levison, Head of Housing Programmes and Services, Greater London Authority.
They discussed the “Everyone In” programme that was set up and operationalised in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to get people rough sleeping off the streets and into hotels and other temporary accommodation.
As with all the best ideas, in hindsight it seems obvious to put people into hotels. We needed people off the streets for their own and others protection, and hotels had none of their usual customers due to the lockdown restrictions. Also as with all ideas that turn out well, many people now claim it was their idea! The true origin is shrouded in mystery…
Goodwill was evident across sectors as hotel owners and chains were happy to negotiate and give good rates. And we saw positive input from other parties as well: faith groups, health bodies, local authorities and organisations from the broad range of the homelessness sector.
Mobilising a cross department and cross sector team to manage the scheme was a huge effort that was not always smooth. Even in a crisis where people want to work together there is the occasional example of cross agendas, but there was evidence of a different focus, with people in various organisations and across government recognising that something needed to be done.
Following the main interviews facilitated by Jeremy, there was a range of interesting and challenging questions from the audience with the main focus being on how do the achievements get maintained and built. In other words, what happens now? COVID is much tamed but not extinct. Vaccines are being rolled out to people sleeping rough but they remain vulnerable. How do we make the gains of Everyone In permanent? And what lessons should we take away.
And fundamentally, how can we press on and continue to help more people come off the street so that rough sleeping can be ended.