Tackling homelessness in rural communities
By Rory Weal,
The Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street hosted a special policy briefing by Churchill Fellow Amy Varle (CF 2016) on 24 September.
Speaking at her second visit to Downing Street, homelessness campaigner Amy announced plans to launch Socially Homes, “the Uber of homelessness”. This new online platform will connect professionals tackling homelessness in all sectors and all parts of the UK, to share insights, resources and best practice.
The event was attended by senior policymakers, social investment funders and providers of housing and services from across the public, private and voluntary sectors. A celebratory reception was then held at the Churchill War Rooms off Parliament Square, where Amy and other project contributors revealed future digital projects and strategic enterprise plans.
Amy, who experienced homelessness herself as a teenager, said: “It is beyond my wildest dreams to see ten years of designs and trials now come so spectacularly to life via sociallyhomes.com. All I’ve ever wanted is to be able to offer a tangible solution to any person sleeping outdoors and I really feel we are getting close to this now. I’m thrilled to include so many incredible contributors in this special occasion and it is humbling to be able to acknowledge the selfless and invaluable role each person plays in ending homelessness across our nation.”
Jason Petch who was formally homeless and is now an advisor to Socially Homes said: “I’m very grateful Amy approached me to assist, along with other former or currently homeless people as advisors. I believe communities like Socially Homes, who bring together every sector of the solution forward as one team, are the future of solving homelessness.”
It is predicted that Socially Homes will help tens of thousands of people in crisis across the country as it rolls out over the next two years. Together, participants will explore ways of investing in social housing and social enterprise strategies, creating an online knowledge hub.
The project is based on the findings of Amy’s Activate Fund project, which was funded in May 2020 from our new grant programme for Fellows’ UK activities. As part of the project, Amy delivered online events and workshops with organisations who are working to end homelessness, creating a network of cross-sector practitioners. As a result, the project has supported almost 1,000 vulnerable individuals during a 12-month period. This has resulted in around £20m in public savings by reducing the strain on healthcare, policing and local authorities.
Amy’s Fellowship explored new strategies for homelessness prevention and response in the USA. On her return, Amy was invited to share her research at 10 Downing Street at the request of Prime Minister Theresa May. Since then, she has campaigned for the Housing First model, a new approach that prioritises giving homeless people a place to live as the basis for all other interventions. She has been hugely instrumental in implementing the model in the UK, and in 2017 was tasked with leading the creation of a flagship centre for homeless people in Manchester, a model which is being rolled out across the region and nationwide.
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