Birmingham Changing Futures Together has welcomed Birmingham City Council’s report on homelessness – Rough Sleeping & Prevention – published today.
“Containing practical and pragmatic approaches that pick up on the proven work already being done in Birmingham, the report signals a commitment to tackle this complex problem,” said Natalie Allen, Programmes Director of Birmingham Changing Futures Together.
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Birmingham Changing Futures Together is a £10 million programme over eight years. Its purpose is to improves the effectiveness of service provision to people with multiple and complex needs who experience at least two of the following: homelessness, substance misuse, offending behaviour and mental ill health.
“The report recognises the complexity of the difficulties homeless people face and highlights the importance of the local authority, service providers and community organisations working collaboratively,” continued Natalie Allen. “In particular, it supports a ‘no wrong door’ approach. We wholeheartedly endorse this philosophy and have the evidence to prove it works.
“Birmingham Changing Futures Together today operates a No Wrong Door Network. A group of 18 organisations, which includes Shelter, West Midlands Police, Birmingham Mind and the West Midlands Fire Service, the No Wrong Door Network gives people with complex and multiple needs access to ‘joined-up’ services through one point of contact.
“Many people have been supported in this way to turn their lives around; Shaun Kelly and ‘Sally’ are just two examples.
“After engaging with the service ‘Sally’ transformed her life. She is now an Expert by Experience, working with the police and fire services, helping front line officers understand and so work more effectively with homeless people.
“The No Wrong Door Network gave Shaun access to the support he needed, which included stress management courses and counselling. Of equal importance to Shaun was the Peer Mentor who met him as he left prison for the last time.”
Shaun said: “As I walked out, the prison officers said ‘see you in a couple of weeks’. But they didn’t. My Peer Mentor made a big difference.”
Peer Mentors have lived experience, which means they can quickly form the trust-based bond with clients that is essential to change. The evidence is clear; a Peer Mentor working alongside a Lead Worker with a proven track record in support provision increases the likelihood of lasting change.
As Shaun explained: “I couldn’t share my problems with my probation officer but I could tell my Peer Mentor. He’d been in my situation so he knew what I was talking about. He understood me.”
The report also calls for best practice to be benchmarked, in particular in relation to emergency accommodation.
Natalie Allen continued: “Benchmarking best practice is essential. We need to identify and understand what works best and why, and share the knowledge with all service providers. This has been an important focus for us since the programme began in 2014. We want to work with the City Council to build on the existing knowledge bank.”