London Housing Foundation gives travel bursaries for graduates of the London South Bank University post graduate certificate in Homelessness and Housing that we sponsor. These allow staff from the sector to see how the housing crisis and rough sleeping is tackled in different cultures. Last week, Pia Hansen, Get Involved Manager at Evolve Housing, told us how she benefited from the travel bursary. This week, we asked Rosanne Diaz from the department of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to tell us her story.
Where did you decide to go and why?
I went to the states. This was partly as I had professional contacts there who could help organise the trip, but also as I wanted to see how government and non-governmental organisations worked together to help solve and prevent homelessness. It was an opportunity to meet people with a national influence and see how it was impacting in local areas.
Who did you meet?
I spent time with The Fortune Society in New York City, Pathways to Housing and the De Paul project in Philadelphia and the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington.
What were your initial impressions?
The level of lived experience in the staff teams at the Fortune Society was impressive, and I think one of the reasons for their success in working with offenders and ex-offenders. Pathways in Philadelphia had an excellent record of working with people addicted to heroin, and their work supporting and training private landlords had clearly made a real difference to the sustainability of the project. Landlords were trained for example in health and safety and first aid, so they felt more confident dealing with tenants who might need more support.
What else is different?
The HUD have excellent data and everything is driven by the data; for example, using algorithms to make decisions about continued funding and insisting everyone complies with the national data system.
What can we learn from them?
De Paul soon realised that none of the existing employment agencies could help the people they were working with, so set up one of their own. I’m sure we could do more of this. And overall I think the sector can take more risks. The projects I saw in the states were taking risks on behalf of the people they work with.
Has it changed the way you work?
It was really good for me to be able to ask my own questions and learn for myself. Working in government in the UK we have a lot of experts and specialist advisors and it was good to bring back an assessment of how another country works to challenge our policies. I met with some amazing women who have really opened my eyes to what you can achieve through building strong relationships and a determination to make change happen.