Martin Gavin: Deciding how to help might be ignoring the obvious
Homeless Network Scotland recently made over 1,000 cash payments of £100 to people affected by homelessness, thanks to the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund, supported by SCVO and the Hunter Foundation. The one-off payment was available to households in temporary homelessness accommodation, or people who have recently taken on a Housing First tenancy. Martin Gavin, head of external relations at Homeless Network Scotland, explains how it came about.
The coronavirus crisis is helping to shift the concept of direct cash transfers to people who need money away from the fringes of charity fundraising and into the mainstream, both in the UK and abroad. Schemes operating worldwide have enabled people to buy equipment to start a business or repair their homes, or simply supporting them to get by.
The Staying In Fund came about through a grant of £100K provided as part of the Scottish Government’s emergency response measures. The award of the grant to Homeless Network Scotland permitted us to use the money in the most effective way possible, and in this case simply providing cash or vouchers to people who need it was the preferred option. There is no good time to be short of money, but during this pandemic has been an especially stressful time and we wanted to help ease some money worries or allow people to clear money owed.
There is robust, well-researched evidence that providing money directly to people who need it is an effective response. American non-profit organisation, Give Directly, has been pioneering direct cash transfers for the past decade, according to its website delivering more than $160 million in cash directly to 170,000 families in different parts of the world. The organisation received funding from Silicon Valley tech companies and investors as the pandemic began to take hold in April. Research indicates that receiving a cash transfer has advantages beyond the initial payment, with some people who receive a payment experiencing a growth in income over time, with additional benefits relating to wellbeing and positive health outcomes also recorded.
Here in Scotland, people in temporary accommodation or a Housing First tenancy were able to apply with many applications coming through support providers such as Salvation Army, which delivers services across Scotland including Housing First support.
Kelly Storm, service manager at Salvation Army, said: “On a practical level people have been able to buy things like clothes, which they would not normally buy for themselves, items for their tenancies to help make their house feel more like home and also forms of entertainment, such as phones and DVDs, which have helped combat isolation during the lockdown period.
“We have been able to encourage people to shop in their local stores and supermarkets as well which has helped them connect with their communities. The fund has had an incredibly positive impact on all. For those really feeling the effects of increased isolation and boredom, the receipt of the voucher was a huge pick me up and really lifted their spirits.”
This round of our staying in fund is now closed but testing this method of providing support has demonstrated the value of direct cash grants for people who may have limited access to financial assistance, from friends or family members for example. For us, this confirmed that deciding how best to assist someone might be as simple as enabling them to decide for themselves.
Annual membership for Homeless Network Scotland is free between now and 30 September 2020. For more information please email with your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.homelessnetwork.scot.