The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) is an independent research organisation that promotes sustainable development and innovation in housing through collaborative research and knowledge transfer.
Established in 1976, BSHF works both in the UK and internationally to identify innovative housing solutions and to foster the exchange of information and good practice.
BSHF believes that everyone should have access to decent housing and is committed to promoting housing policy and practice that is people centred and environmentally responsible.
The foundation has recently extended their operations in the UK to Brighton where research will be taking place to asses the particular and specific issues that rough sleepers face in the city.
The aim of the overarching campaign is to create a perspectival change that both asks acts to stop ‘managing‘ the issue, and start working towards ending street homelessness.
“We want to change the focus from ‘a problem to be solved’, to ‘a phenomenon that has a solution’. We know that one of the keys to this is housing, and perceiving housing as a right, a human right”.
BSHF are clear in their vision to end street homelessness, and to ensure that criticisms of idealism are limited and concerns of costs are ameliorated, the foundation is deliberate in laying out their goals, guided by some key principles:
- Housing First: Ensuring homeless people are housed in permanent, safe, appropriate and affordable housing with the support necessary to sustain it.
- Knowing who’s out there: Getting to know every homeless person by name by going onto the streets to find them and understand their needs.
- Tracking progress: Regularly collecting and sharing person-specific data to accurately track progress toward ending homelessness.
- Involving the community in solutions: Many people are concerned about the individuals in their communities who have no roof to sleep under and they want to play a meaningful part in helping to find solutions.
- Improving local systems: Building coordinated housing and support systems that are simple to navigate, while targeting resources quickly and efficiently to the people who need it the most.
- Learning from and sharing with others: There must be a willingness to contribute to sharing knowledge with other cities whilst also learning from their campaign.
In Brighton, more than 1,000 people sleep on the streets every year. The local vision is to work together to make sure no-one experiences street homelessness in Brighton and Hove by 2020.
Brighton hopes to expand their Housing First provision through the campaign building on the city’s initial Housing First pilot which began in 2014.
Volunteers will go out to meet those on the street as part of their Connections Week in November 2017. Find out more about the Brighton campaign here.
A Connections Week is a week of local action that harnesses the knowledge of commitment of those working in homelessness organisations, those sleeping on the streets and the further local community. Local campaign teams ensure that every individual on the street is spoken to, listened to, interviewed and asked to tell their full story of their journey on to the streets and their situation now. This information is then used to make sure services and support truly reflects the needs, hopes and demands of homeless people.
The European End Street Homelessness Campaign developed following BSHF’s peer exchange to Los Angeles in August 2014. The exchange enabled homelessness practitioners from around the world to visit the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a 2013 World Habitat Awards winner.
Over four years that campaign mobilised 186 communities across the USA to house over 100,000 chronically homeless people. Following the peer exchange some participants were inspired to take action together in Europe with BSHF’s support.
Inspiration also came from the Y-Foundation, Finland, a 2014 World Habitat Awards winner. The organisation has been central to Finland’s efforts to eliminate long-term homelessness. As a provider of rental housing it has pioneered a Housing First approach, providing housing as a first step and then supporting people dealing with additional problems.
For more information on the vision posited by the BSHF and the principles which guide it’s action, take a look at this video, and if you like what they’re doing, do try to share it as much as possible. With a government in the UK whose austerity policies have seen not only the repeated underfunding of local council’s, communities, and services, but more widely a shift in the role and responsibility of the state in relation to the country’s population, it really is up to us to band together and solve the problems that we recognise from the bottom up.