This afternoon the All-Party Group (APG) on Homelessness heard from four individuals with lived experience of homelessness on their views on what the draft 2022-2027 Homelessness Strategy needs to consider. The speakers gave powerful presentations on their personal journeys in to homelessness and the kind of actions which could make a difference in preventing and reducing homelessness.
The speakers came from a diversity of backgrounds and had a range of experiences within the homelessness system, both positive and negative. Some of the themes which were highlighted included:
- The importance of high-quality, clear information: a number of the presenters outlined that it was difficult to know where to go to seek help when they were became homeless.
- The impact of homelessness on mental health: homelessness can have a deeply detrimental impact on the mental health of those who experience it as well as their wider family.
- The difference having your own home makes: some of the presenters had been able to access long-term housing and spoke of the positive impact this had for them. On the other hand, many in hostel accommodation can find themselves unable to access long-term accommodation for several months or years. This can have negative consequences for those affected.
- The effectiveness of ‘Housing First’ for those experiencing chronic homelessness: one of the presenters had benefited from a Housing First scheme operating in Northern Ireland. Their story powerfully showed the difference properly implemented housing first schemes can make for this group of people.
- The value of a human-rights approach to homelessness: the speakers highlighted how housing should be viewed as a human right for everyone. As one of the speakers put it, “I sincerely believe a right to a home, one where someone can live free from harm, one where someone can live securely is the most basic necessity for anyone to be able to flourish.”
The session illustrated the value and importance in policy making of hearing from those who have lived experience of homelessness. The fundamental truth is that if we are to see homelessness prevented and reduced, those with lived experience need to be represented in policy development and service design. Their voices must be at the centre of this society’s response to homelessness.
The next meeting of the APG on Homelessness takes place in December.