My Transatlantic homelessness exchange

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12 May 2016
by Erika Schmale

Two weeks ago I arrived from the US to take part in an international exchange programme in the UK.

I work for an organisation called Homeward, which supports homeless people in Richmond, Virginia, and was selected to take part in this year’s Transatlantic Practice Exchange – a joint project by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in US and Homeless Link in UK. The idea of the programme is to establish best practice connections and to develop future leaders in the sector. 

I believe that Nottingham is very lucky to have this resource and I am hoping to bring home elements of its work back home with me. 

I was one of five participants from the US selected to participate in this scheme. Framework was chosen as my placement because its street outreach work in Nottingham is seen as a national model for assertive outreach. 

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On outreach with the team in Nottingham

Over the past week-and-a-half the team connected with Housing Aid, NHS, Police, hostels, prisons, treatment centers, day centers, businesses, and other non-profits. This is on top of its routine outreach each morning and staffing a 24/7 referral and advice hotline. 

During this time I have been learning from the team how their outreach efforts can engage police, government, non-profits, and community members, to help the people they are supporting. 

I believe that Nottingham is very lucky to have this resource and I am hoping to bring home elements of its work back home with me. 

UK and the US

In Richmond I help bring together incredible advocates and agencies to continue to improve our community’s coordinated response homelessness. Both cities have similarities and differences. On any given night Richmond has about 70 people sleeping outdoors, whereas Nottingham has around 14 people. 

Homelessness in both countries is a very complex issue with no easy solutions.

Although the US and UK have different tools to end homelessness, we both are focused the same thing – connecting those with nowhere else to go back to housing. Because of this, we struggle with similar issues around finding safe, affordable housing in the private market that will give an individual with spotty income and housing history a chance. 

In Richmond, outreach and shelter staff work in partnership to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and have been homeless the longest for available housing resources. We do not have enough resources to meet the need or the connection Nottingham has to affordable housing, so we have more individuals who have been homeless a long time in our community. 

In Nottingham, Framework's street outreach team partners with housing aid to connect those eligible for housing benefit to a hostel with the ultimate goal of permanent housing. If an individual is not eligible because they are deemed intentionally homeless, are from another area of the country or a different country all together, SOT pieces together other options including reunification with family and information on how the benefits system works. 

One of the most impressive parts of both Richmond and Nottingham is the amazing professionals working to cut through the issues and connect people back to housing using all of the tools they can find. Homelessness in both countries is a very complex issue with no easy solutions.

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