We recently invited all those who have been involved in Manchester Homelessness Charter so far to spend a day together to reconnect and look at how we are doing, on what to focus on next. We weren’t sure who would be able to come, considering it is such a busy time of year for everyone, but WOW, what an amazing day it was!
We spent a wonderful day with around 100 people from across the partnership – people who have experienced homelessness and are now a core part of the Charter Action Groups, volunteers from grassroots groups working with those on the street, staff from Charities, Housing Associations, the Council and GM Police, and representatives from the faith, further education and business communities. Working together in this way is a real step change and where we see real potential for the future.
What blew us away most of all was seeing the relationships that have been made through this work – the warmth with which people greeted each other, a spirit of deep listening and genuine enquiry, conversation that flowed naturally with ideas emerging across boundaries.
“Monday was the best meeting I’ve been to. It was fun, vibrant and everyone who was there gave the meeting enough energy to light Manchester City’s Christmas decorations!” – Mooch, Big Change action group.
While there are real challenges that we still face, and a lot of work to do, it was important to start with celebrating what is working well, and understanding the conditions that support this work to flourish. It was a moving experience to hear the stories people told of real change happening, both in their organisations but also at a personal level. Starting from a position of appreciative enquiry, we found common themes including how important co-production is, and a shared passion to create these conditions throughout everything that we do.
From that place of celebration, we turned to look at the bigger picture – how do all of these parts of the partnership fit? Where are there strong connections, and where do groups need more support? We mapped the system in physical space, and there was a magical moment where Barry (who has himself been homeless) stood up to say ‘I know how this should be’, and moved some of the key players in this system closer together.
The afternoon was an open space for anyone in the room to call a conversation about something they felt was important to this work. There was a real variety of questions raised, and people were free to choose which groups to join. The groups spent time developing ideas, deciding on the next actions to take, and raising any areas where they needed support.
So many great suggestions and questions were raised, and you can view more detailed outcomes from those conversations here if you are interested. We have pulled out some of the key themes below to give you a taster of what might be coming next in the work of Manchester Homelessness Charter.
Involving people with lived experience
Everyone agreed that co-production must continue to be core to everything we do. We want to find ways to enable more voices to be heard, and support people with lived experience to be at the heart of this work.
Capacity and resources
There are limited resource to support this work – those in the core team have full time jobs and the workload is more than this group can handle. Everyone wanted to see more communication, and make the most of this opportunities the charter brings up, so we will need to look to increase capacity, and enable everyone in the partnership to play a part.
Employing people with lived experience
At several points in the day, there were conversations around opportunities to employ people with lived experience to take on some of this work, perhaps linking into the existing GROW trainees scheme run by Inspiring Change Manchester. We need more capacity to provide connection and communication to support the charter, and we would love to be able to support people with lived experience to design their own role and be involved in finding the resource to do it.
Mental Health Support
Concerns about the availability of mental health services and what we can do while the redesign of central services is underway was another key theme that came up several times.
New Action Groups including Housing
A key theme that came up throughout the day was how much of an issue housing was. With a lack of affordable housing and social housing, homelessness numbers are likely to continue to rise, and it is hard to find move on options for those in emergency accommodation.
Aswell as a housing action group, several other groups were suggested, including co-production of new services around the GM homelessness prevention grant.
Much of this work can be done from the ground up, but for some of the bigger structural changes we need to engage political decision makers. The Partnership Board will meet from early 2017 and have some power to affect decisions. With devolution and mayoral elections on the way, the Partnership will need to make sure requests that emerge from this work are heard by the right people.
Evolving how the partnership works
As the number of action groups increases, and with no single organisation running the Charter, everyone in the partnership needs to play a part. We considered whether perhaps we could introduce some principles for everyone involved to take on, for example each group taking responsibility for their own communication, and anyone without lived experience going on a Mooch Tour to see what it is like first hand!
The role of the driving group is to support the groups to do this work – supporting individuals, creating opportunities for new connections, helping people involved to see the whole picture, and looking for ways to involve universities and businesses to support this work.
So, what happens next?
All of this shows the desire and passion to do more towards ending homelessness in the city. It is not easy to face this challenge and to revolutionise how we work, but we believe that from good conditions the solutions will emerge, and the work of the charter will flourish.
What can YOU do?
- If you or your employer haven’t yet pledged to support the charter, please read it and consider making a pledge at charter.streetsupport.net.
- If you were at the event we would love to hear your view on the day – please get in touch with your thoughts through Twitter, Facebook, or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- There are many more ways to help end homelessness in Manchester through the Street Support Give Help section.
Finally we want to say a huge thank you to those who facilitated the event so wonderfully – Linda Joy Mitchell, Mike Love & Jon Dorsett; to Paul Crudgington for the fantastic photos; and to the Co-Op for donating the venue and refreshments for the day.
Here’s to 2017 – let’s work together to #EndHomelessnessMCR !
Want to see more detail?