A conference held on Tuesday 10 November aimed to improve services to support local single homeless people across Surrey.
Organised by Transform Housing & Support on behalf of the Surrey Homeless Alliance, the conference brought together representatives from local authorities and voluntary organisations across the county to share ideas and best practice.
Homelessness has risen over the past few years across the UK, and Surrey is no exception. It is recognised there is a need for more services to help single homeless people in the county. The conference at Elmbridge Borough Council in Esher was an opportunity to hear success stories of new and innovative ways of working, share best practice ideas and examine opportunities for collaboration.
The 11 boroughs and districts councils created the Surrey Homeless Alliance to increase awareness of the issue and provide a forum to share ideas and find better ways of working together between the statutory, voluntary and faith sectors.
This year’s conference included presentations from East Surrey Outreach Service, Single Homeless Alliance for West Surrey, Homeless Link, Transform and Surrey County Council. Attendees heard how Government funding from the Help for Single Homeless Fund has led to new temporary services being set up to support rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping. There were also discussions of current trends in homelessness, including the increase in homelessness among single women in some parts of Surrey.
Attendees heard a case study from Cath Stamper, Chief Executive of the York Road Project. She described a highly vulnerable client who was homeless and living with severe epilepsy, which had led him to be attacked on several occasions. Cath and her team have been supporting this client alongside other appropriate agencies and he has successfully moved to temporary accommodation until somewhere more suitable becomes available.
Attendees also heard from Deborah Davidson-Hine, Housing & Support Manager at Transform. She shared her experiences of developing a pilot scheme to provide supported housing for people in treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Many clients of the scheme had previously been homeless as a result of their addiction. The project had high success rates in supporting people to remain abstinent and avoid becoming homeless again. Deborah described one client from the pilot who came from a particularly troubled background but is now approaching two years of sobriety thanks to support from Transform.
Faye Merry at Transform Housing & Support said:
“The conference was a fantastic opportunity for local authorities and voluntary organisations across the county to come together to share innovative ideas and best practice. It was a great success and we have had brilliant feedback so far. Transform was pleased to organise the event on behalf of the boroughs and districts for the Surrey Homeless Alliance.”
In the workshops following the case studies, discussions were held regarding how these new and innovative practices are being put to use and how they can be replicated across the county. The workshops provided an opportunity for attendees to meet other professionals and understand their roles and that of their organisations.
Feedback from the day was extremely positive. One attendee said “Great work – thank you! Very useful and informative morning.” Another said the workshops were “Very effective [and] generated lots of discussion.”
Further feedback will be evaluated and inform the next two conferences planned for next year.