Grassroots and on the ground

Homelessness has never been more visible. Whether it’s on the streets, where almost 9,000 people sleep rough in London; or in the media, at the high-profile launch of the Evening Standard’s new Homeless Fund, homelessness is in the public consciousness like never before.

Homelessness has never been more invisible. While we all see the increasing numbers of people sleeping rough, few people understand the scale of the “hidden homeless”, with over 400,000 people in the UK, including over 80,000 children, living in hostels, temporary accommodation like B&Bs, sofa-surfing or living in conditions of severe overcrowding.

That this blog could have started with either of the above paragraphs and opening sentences demonstrates something of the complexity of homelessness as a topic. A multi-faceted issue, with numerous different strands, causes and responses.

At our annual supporters’ event last Thursday, LCF explored this through different voices and different perspectives. Hearing from service providers and service users, funders, commissioners and researchers we tried to give a sense of the network of people and organisations who face this issue every day and how they do, should and could respond.

Guests had the opportunity to meet organisations working across London who are addressing homelessness in a variety of ways. A special thank you to Ilford Sunday Drop In, Deptford Reach, Advice4Renters, Vision Care for Homeless People and Oasis Community Housing for talking about their vital work.

You say homeless, we say human.
Katie Boswell, New Philanthropy Capital

The focal point of the evening was a panel discussion, chaired by our CEO, Kate Markey. Starting with a poignant film, highlights for many will have been the powerful personal testimony we heard from guests with lived experience of homelessness as well as insightful comments from Jennifer Travassos, Head of Prevention at Westminster City Council, Katie Boswell, Associate Director from New Philanthropy Capital, Helen Parker, Head of Foundation at the Wimbledon Foundation and Liz Griffiths, Head of Trust Fundraising from SPEAR.

What we share is an overwhelming commitment to those helping Londoners.
Kate Markey, The London Community Foundation

What came out clearly from the panel discussion was the huge importance of collaboration, communication and coordination between all players involved in tackling homelessness and the key role small charities play.

Jenny demonstrated this by explaining how in Westminster, in any one given night, there can be up to 80 soup runs taking place on the Strand. She then went on to talk about how important local community groups are to Westminster’s ability to reach people at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis point. She acknowledged that they can’t do it alone and that it’s these small charities that can have the biggest impact. Katie also mentioned the importance of focusing on person-centric approaches and how the best services are those that realise this and treat different people differently, something small charities are most adept at.

Another theme from the evening was the importance of long term, multi-year funding for these frontline organisations. This was demonstrated when Liz Griffiths from SPEAR talked about the impact that funding from the Wimbledon Foundation’s homelessness fund, represented at the event by Helen Parker and her team, had made to that group.

We didn’t want to fund projects, we wanted to fund the whole organisation.
Helen Parker, Wimbledon Foundation

The multi-year, core funding grant has enabled them to make a step change in their ability to understand their clients, their needs and the patterns and trends that they see emerging. This knowledge enables them to be able to truly collaborate on the issue with other groups, with local authorities and with other funders. It’s a measure of the Wimbledon Foundation’s trust in the groups they support that has enabled this type of funding, which our own research in our recent Voices from the Frontline report has demonstrated is badly needed and wanted in this sector.

The evening ended with real thoughts of hope from our panellists and a sense that, with a collaborative approach between funders, groups and government, the vital change we need to see is possible.

Change happens one person at a time.
Jennifer Travassos, Westminster City Council

Thank you to everyone who attended, we look forward to continuing the conversation around homelessness.

Take a look at some photo highlights of the evening.