Blog: Working together to end homelessness

Ligia Teixeira

Ligia Teixeira

In a guest blog for homelessness charity Cyrenians, Dr Ligia Teixeira outlines why Crisis believes that improving outcomes at scale requires a new approach.

Crisis was formed in 1967 in response to unacceptable levels of homelessness. Our purpose is to end homelessness – for individuals who are homeless now, and for the good of society as a whole. The organisation was never meant to still be here half a century later.

Crisis is marking its 50th anniversary this year, but as our chief executive Jon Sparkes said, “this is no cause for celebration. The reason we’re still here, is because we’re still needed. Many thousands of people are sleeping on Britain’s streets, on sofas, in squats or unsuitable temporary accommodation. We want a future where we’re no longer needed, where no one has to suffer homelessness because they can’t find a place to live.”

We know this won’t be easy. The scale and complexity of the homelessness system has thwarted attempted reforms for several years now. Despite our best efforts the lack of progress is clear. Countless organisations and individuals work tirelessly every day across the country and some have led to important improvements in individual areas or services, yet system-wide progress has seemed virtually unobtainable.

This is why we think it’s time for a new approach. We believe that substantially greater progress can be made if the third sector, local and national government, businesses, and the public are brought together around a common agenda to create real long lasting change. Our new strapline, “together we will end homelessness” reflects both our ambition and our belief in the power of collaboration.

That’s why, throughout our 50th year, Crisis is co-creating a national plan to end the most acute forms of homelessness once and for all, which will be published in May 2018. At the heart of the new plan will be the results of extensive consultations in Scotland, England and Wales and of a large scale programme of research. We are also asking people to join our #EverybodyIn campaign and show their support for ending homelessness.

Crisis made the decision to embark on this journey because a common agenda is needed. No single organisation, however powerful or innovative, can end homelessness on its own. So there needs to be a shared vision for change, one that includes a common understanding of homelessness and its root causes as well as a joint (evidence-informed) approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.

There also needs to be agreement on how success will be measured and reported and a shared measurement system. This will help ensure that all efforts remain aligned and enable us to hold each other accountable and learn from each other’s successes and failures.

Real long lasting change also requires a new type of organisation to support better ways of working. It is hoped that the emerging Centre for Homelessness Impact will serve as a backbone for any efforts and help ensure that our values aren’t only articulated in our efforts but in our outcomes.

And though the plan to new end homelessness will put forward evidence-informed solutions, we know that reforming the homelessness system cannot be accomplished through predetermined solutions. No one solution exists, the body of knowledge changes over time, and the consequences of actions are unpredictable, and many variables—such as the outcome of elections—cannot be known in advance.

Against this backdrop, it will be important to embrace the uncertainty of the journey, but remain clear eyed about our destination. As organisation guru Margaret Wheatley puts it,

“we live in a complex world, we often don’t know what is going on, and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time not knowing…. Curiosity is what we need.”

Success will partly depend on our ability to embrace a new way of seeing, learning, and doing that marries emergent solutions with deliberate outcomes. One thing is certain – if we all work together more effectively, in another 50 years’ time homelessness will have been consigned to the history books.

  • Dr Lígia Teixeira is the head of research and evaluation at Crisis. You can read her blog on mediumand follow her on Twitter @LigiaTeixeira