Can the journey be just as important as the destination?

The NLA’s Chris Norris on lateral thinking and the importance of choosing the right travelling companions.

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a round table event organised by the charity Centrepoint and chaired by their Chief Executive, Seyi Obakin.

The purpose of this meeting was ostensibly to launch a new research report entitled ‘Moving on or just moving out? Resettling homeless young people into independent accommodation’, which is a really interesting exploration of the housing journey experienced by disadvantaged young people.  The report is very interesting, especially topical at the moment, and well worth a read since it correctly identifies the importance of providing support throughout PRS tenancies to sustain them.

However, perhaps a more important outcome of this morning was the opportunity it gave a group of housing professionals to share and discuss our concerns about a range of issues relating to housing and welfare reform.

One of the most striking features of this discussion was the degree of accord which exists between such a range of organisations including the NLA, St Mungos, Crisis, Westminster City Council, Centrepoint, Thames Reach and the London Borough of Lewisham – all of which contributed constructively to the roundtable.

In particular it was refreshing to hear from two local authorities which are applying a little imagination to their housing policies. Jonathan Glanz , Cabinet Member for Housing in Westminster, provided an insight into his council’s far from typical housing challenges and the approach they are taking to identify ways to make shared housing work for landlords and tenants. He also outlined an interesting scheme intended to ameliorate the ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma which facing many homeless people unable to access accommodation or housing by provide flexible accommodation with formal training – before looking for permanent private rented housing.

But the most profound comment of the morning may well have come by way of long-time Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, who proffered that nothing less than a “housing crusade” could successfully meet the challenges facing housing in London – in terms of supply and experience.

For me this comment summed up the general feeling in many housing circles, not because it provides a solution, but because he recognised that housing problems cannot be solved by housing specialists alone.

He told us about PRS engagement focussing on small scale new landlords, inter-borough work to maximise their use of good landlords. But crucially he was also able to reference schemes to prevent homelessness initiated by children’s services and healthcare departments, and educational efforts to allow people to make better use of their housing options.

Housing experience isn’t static, it’s a journey, and the typical journey taken by many young people today has changed. Ultimately, until issues with undersupply are properly addressed this will remain. But in the here and now, it’s good to see at least some elements of the sector recognising what is happening and trying to find new ways to help create positive outcomes.

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