Housing & Homelessness Alliance (Cornwall Council)

Establishing an alliance of statutory, voluntary and community sector partners to revitalise the countywide response to homelessness.


At a glance

Housing Advisers Programme case study

2020/21 cohort

What went in

Priority area addressed: housing and homelessness strategic and system leadership building on pandemic learning 

Budget: £20,000 

Other resource needed: staff time from Cornwall Council officers and Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum officers to set up; senior staff time commitment from participating organisations; online platform (Microsoft Teams) 

Time taken to achieve outcomes: nine months and ongoing

What came out

Deliverables: Housing & Homelessness Alliance set up and meeting on a monthly basis 

Difference made/ indication of success: partners, including voluntary sector partners, have access to a forum at which they can discuss issues relating to housing and homelessness and share experiences and knowledge. The Alliance has participated in four local consultation activities to offer the community and voluntary sector organisations’ perspective:  

  • The Housing Crisis Plan Consultation 
  • Rough Sleeper Initiative planning 
  • Mapping of the homelessness support system analysis 
  • Health, social care and housing memorandum of understanding 

Statistics: 26 organisations have registered to attend the monthly alliance meetings representing a diversity of scale and scope of housing and homelessness delivery and support across Cornwall. In addition, public sector organisations have attended as guests and Cornwall Council Housing colleagues regularly attend.  

“I’m finding attending the Housing and Homelessness Alliance very useful. They are well run, very needed and very informative. For example, the presentation by Vanessa Fudge about the importance of developing a trauma informed approach and the helpful subsequent meeting with her was extremely useful to Emmaus Cornwall. I feel that the practical and supportive advice provided by Vanessa is going to assist Emmaus developing trauma informed approach to their practice.”

Jess Stanton of Emmaus Cornwall

 

Executive summary

Together, the Council and the voluntary and community sector delivered services that were critical to the wellbeing of homeless households during the Covid19 pandemic, and which met a wider range of need than accommodation alone. This ensured a coordinated response to homelessness which complemented statutory services but also offered alternative solutions to people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. The voluntary and community sector continues to support the homeless. An ‘Alliance’ of statutory, voluntary and community sector partners was considered the most appropriate platform for all Partner ‘voices to be heard’ in ongoing conversations. The purpose of this Alliance is to build on the learning gained through the pandemic, offer all partners a unique opportunity to refresh and revitalise the response to homelessness and effect required system change.

Challenge and context

Covid19 created unprecedented pressures within the Housing Service, with more than double the usual number of households accommodated in temporary accommodation. The pressure has not abated and has increased as evictions recommenced and, over the last year, greater numbers of private landlords deciding to convert their accommodation into holiday accommodation. We need to reduce demand moving forward, find new solutions for people at risk of homelessness and develop personalised responses which build on local networks and knowledge. The voluntary sector has always delivered services that have been critical to the wellbeing of homeless households and which have met a wider range of need than accommodation alone. However, these services have been delivered in an ad hoc way, often developed through individual officers, and not in a coordinated way.

What we did

There were two main activities undertaken: 

  • We commissioned the Leadership Centre to provide an external perspective on what was working well/not so well in Cornwall and to support officers to map current provision 

  • We part-funded an Engagement Officer post with the Voluntary Sector Forum to act as the link between the Council and the voluntary sector. This post acts as the administrator to the Housing & Homelessness Alliance. 

The difference we made

The Housing & Homelessness Alliance of statutory, voluntary and community partners will deliver: 

  • a clear agenda for delivering homelessness services and route maps to better coordination and collaboration between partners to achieve positive outcomes; 

  • clear roles, responsibilities and accountability for respective agencies; 

  • better data mapping and understanding of trends, gaps and homelessness services across Cornwall; 

  • clear pathways for people facing homelessness that seek to prevent homelessness; 

  • increased prevention of homelessness.

The results of the exercise used to map the homelessness system in Cornwall
A picture of the results of the exercise used to map the homelessness system in Cornwall.

What’s next?

The Council has recently gone through a restructure and decisions are awaited on the future of the current Strategic Homelessness Forum (meeting of commissioned and non-commissioned partners with responsibility for delivering the Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy). This will include clarifying how the two forums will complement each other whilst having their own agendas and remits. 

A ‘Toolkit’ is in preparation with 2 main outcomes planned: The first with a focus on voluntary and community sector and local authority collaboration shared through an expert panel and interview session, the second focusing on navigating the homeless system. 

Lessons learned

  • It takes time to set up collaboration sessions especially when requiring the presence of senior staff/decision makers 

  • It takes time for attendees/potential attendees to trust that the Alliance provides an opportunity for different agencies to have a voice in how homelessness system operates/is enhanced and that all partners have something to bring to the table