The Homes for Cathy group’s partnership with Crisis is the first step towards a better relationship with homelessness charities, says Tony Stacey
I find it extraordinary that the worlds of homelessness charities and housing associations rarely overlap.
Housing association people – how many numbers do you keep on your mobile phones for folk from Shelter, Crisis, Homeless Network or local homelessness charities and pressure groups? Not many, huh? I bet the numbers are equally small in reverse.
The Homes for Cathy group (the membership of which has now been opened up to all housing associations) wants to address this. We have decided we want to co-create our first big national event in collaboration with Crisis.
Why Crisis? It was Crisis who played the leading role in steering the Homelessness Reduction Act through parliament. In my view this was the great achievement in the housing world in 2016.
Now chief executive Jon Sparkes and his team have set their sights on a loftier ambition – eliminating homelessness once and for all. For me, this is one of the best examples I have come across of what Jim Collins, in his seminal book Good to Great, describes as a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. The Homes for Cathy group wants to help.
So we got in touch. Within 48 hours I received a positive response from Mr Sparkes. Yes, they want to do this with us – it is now pencilled in the diary for May. As well as homelessness and housing association professionals, we will invite people with experience of homelessness, academics and politicians.
All sorted then? Well, not quite. The team at Crisis pushed back. Actually, they said, we are becoming increasingly concerned by the policies and practices of many associations.
“I was talking to a chief executive the other day who said that the rate of evictions at her association has doubled over the past year.”
In fact, they had it on their to-do list to set something up with associations to explore what’s going on currently and how things could be improved. We have therefore, additionally, agreed to join the Crisis team at a seminar in December to explore these themes and challenge associations who have signed up to Homes for Cathy (and one new association each day is doing this).
The Homes for Cathy group has has also been trying to persuade the Sector Scorecard team to build in indicators on homelessness – the number of evictions an association has made and the proportion of homeless people accepted as new tenants would be good starting points.
I do hope we get there with this one. I was talking to a chief executive the other day who said that the rate of evictions at her association has doubled over the past year, much to her astonishment. The combined impact of welfare cuts and spiralling housing costs are making it almost inevitable that, unless we put in place really effective tenancy sustainment measures, this trend will continue.
We need to work together to stop this. The good news is the team at Crisis is here to help.
Tony Stacey, chief executive, South Yorkshire Housing Association