In 2018 the Government committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027 as part of the Rough Sleeping Strategy. This was further supported by the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024, through the Housing First initiative and collaborative working with local authorities, housing associations and charities. The success of the ‘Everyone In’ policy during the Covid-19 pandemic supported 37,000 people, demonstrating what is possible with a concerted effort.
However, ‘Everyone In’ also highlighted the work that still needs to be done towards ending homelessness. The number of people who accessed the service was far greater than any initial government predictions. It demonstrated both central and local government need to work together with charities to identify the person-centred approach that’s key to ending homelessness.
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading youth homeless charity, providing housing and support for young people across the country. In 2021 they launched their strategy to end youth homelessness by 2037, as anyone born in 2021 would turn 16 in 2037.
Ed Tytherleigh is the Director of Support and Housing at Centrepoint, he is responsible for the delivery of their frontline services across the country. Ed has worked in social care for over 20 years, and prior to joining Centrepoint, he was Chief Executive of the veterans’ charity Stoll.
We spoke to Ed Tytherleigh about what he thinks needs to be done to end homelessness in the UK, and the 2037 Centrepoint strategy to end youth homelessness.
MGC: Hello Ed, thank you for speaking with us today! Could you tell us how the Government can provide better support to organisations working to end homelessness? And how effective the 2018 Rough Sleeping Strategy has been so far?
Ed: The thing I’d most like to see from the government is genuine leadership in the rough sleeper space. That isn’t just about techniques and funding, but leadership, to set the bar and work together with a group of stakeholders to end rough sleeping.
[…]Ending homelessness is a whole other challenge. It’s about the housing crisis, changing societal perceptions and inequity regarding homelessness. Ultimately the most important thing I’d like to see from the government is a wholesale commitment to end rough sleeping.
Within that, one thing I am passionate about is reducing social tolerance for rough sleeping. We’ve all become immune to seeing people on the streets and assuming services will pick them up so there’s almost an acceptance to people sleeping out. This isn’t true, we can provide enough accommodation and create a person-centred approach to help people off of the street.
Honesty is also really important in ending rough sleeping. Rough sleeping is based on street counts, which are just snapshots of the actual figures. However, funding and strategies are based upon these numbers. Those figures point to there being 5-6,000 rough sleepers nationwide, but of course recently the ‘Everyone In’ covid commitment at the start of the pandemic indicated otherwise. The strategy housed 37,000 people nationally, showing that more honesty about the real figures is what will lead to a better more comprehensive strategic response to end rough sleeping.
It’s a clear plan to irradicate rough sleeping. If we get the numbers correct, there’s leadership and a set plan in place to end it, then it is possible to end rough sleeping.
[…]The services in place to end homelessness can’t be reactive, street hostels and emergency provisions are not enough to end homelessness.[…] Emergency aid is needed, but we also need to build more houses and improve legislation to prevent people from being evicted from their homes. This is where the government should be providing better leadership in ending homelessness.
The 2018 rough sleeper strategy was a big impact in moving towards ending rough sleeping.[…] The strategy came with new funding from the ‘Rough Sleeper initiative’ and new resources to help end rough sleeping. The pandemic has made the strategy more difficult, but ultimately it was overtaken by the pledge Boris Johnson made in his 2019 manifesto to end rough sleeping by 2024. The manifesto now is ultimately what is driving more money and attention to the issue of ending rough sleeping.
MGC: How can Local Authorities work with organisations to end homelessness?
Ed: Two things come to mind straight away. The legislative framework for local authorities is quite strong in working towards ending homelessness. […] They provide quite the obligation on local authorities to house people. However, the legislation in place only works with the most vulnerable individuals, but there are legal obligations in place for authorities to provide advice and assistance to people. The second thing is, no one joins local government if they don’t want to help people.
[…]We are in a housing crisis though, and the local authorities just don’t have the ability and the resources to house everyone who needs help. Nationally we need more housing. In the past it was the big corporates who provided this, in the Victorian period, big companies built new towns and houses to support their staff. After the First World War, we had ‘Homes for Heroes and it’s these big pushes for housing that have really helped fix the shortages in the past. We need a similar push now if we are going to house everyone.
[…] However, there is something cultural about how local authorities work, and in local authorities, they don’t talk about homeless prevention all the time. Too often though, homelessness prevention in local authorities is tied up with a lack of resources. This leads to an avoidance of the person in need, deflecting them from making an application for housing because this makes the figures in the region look better.
This avoidance is ultimately driven by the lack of resources local governments have. With more resources, it would be better, because no one works in local authorities if they don’t want to help people.
A partnership between local authorities and organisations is key to ending homelessness, local authorities tend to work on their own when addressing the issue at the moment. Working alone removes the person-centred approach that’s key to ending homelessness.[…] Combining the work of organisations with local authorities will create the person-centred approach that is needed to help as many people as possible.
This will create the cultural change needed to help people, but of course, they are greatly limited at the moment in helping people by the national housing crisis.
MGC: How can organisations work better in partnership to end homelessness?
Ed: I have two responses for this. One is about the responsibility of us, as homeless organisations to be better, but also there’s a leadership piece here too. Nearly all homelessness services that are delivered in this country are delivered through commissioning. Nationwide, authorities have funds to respond to homelessness and they have organisations competing for those funds. This drives a competitive market between organisations in getting the funds needed for their strategies. […] Instead of this, we need better leadership to work together as organisations in partnerships.
[…]The best services are really strong at working in partnership, mostly when the services offered are different. One service might have a hostel with all the support and work with mental health services or a drug and alcohol organisation to have those specialisms too, so they can deliver the best person-centred help. The best partnerships are produced when organisations are complementary but do not in their individual aims.
I do think, going back to the commissioning point, that really healthy commissioning is based around market engagement activities with different organisations. Partnerships do come from these, but I think we could be less driven by the price and tender to create spaces where organisations can talk to find the best ways to work together.
Tenders should encourage a partnership approach, favouring aspects of different organisations to create specialist services to help end homelessness. I think this would make tendering more effective, if done well this would not lead to extra expenditure of money and would lead to better outcomes for the beneficiaries.
MGC: How can frontline services deliver more long-term support to those experiencing, or facing homelessness?
Ed: My answer to this question is that frontline services probably shouldn’t be delivering long-term services. If we are going to make a long-term impact on homelessness, then we cannot hostel, day centre or outreach the way to ending homelessness.
These need to instead become the emergency provisions to support people instead of the default actions of supporting those who are rough sleeping. We need to be preventing more people from becoming homeless in the first place. That is about problem families, availability of housing and the culture of both social and private housing.
We often evict people from private and social housing for £3000 rent arrears and I have empathy for those who going to lose this money. However, it costs the sector and the government far more than £3000 to accommodate and support someone. This is why I don’t think frontline services should be long-term solutions by default.
When someone is in a service though, the service is often too short-term to make change for the individual. Changing this is about leadership and setting standards at government level about the standards services need to meet. There are currently no quality standards in the supported housing sector when these need to be in place to provide services that can help make the change needed to end homelessness.
[…] The government should be leading on standards of supported accommodation, and those standards should also reach commissioning. If it’s supporting housing, outreach, or floated support then there needs to be quality standards in place to ensure people are getting the best support. This is about funding and creating a real long-term commitment to ending homelessness.
Numbers also factors into this help as resourcing comes from being honest about homeless figures and the number of rough sleepers nationwide. Rough sleeping figures are grossly underestimated compared to reality because of how they are counted. Street counts are a snapshot of the true figures of rough sleepers. Honesty about these numbers would lead to honesty with strategy and resources. Having this honesty will improve the long-term nature of services.
However, as previously stated, we don’t want frontline services to become too long-term.
MGC: How does Centrepoint ensure that its services are inclusive?
Ed: We do talk about inclusivity as an organisation, but for us, it’s not about being inclusive, it’s about being effective with our support. In social care, we deal with individuals. If frontline staff and key workers are not aligned and able to build relationships with these individuals, then we would be a less effective organisation.
Diversity and inclusion are about the effectiveness of our core product at Centrepoint. The product of providing support has to be diverse if it is going to be effective in helping people. I think the nature of homelessness attracts people who are more tolerant and accepting of diversity which helps deliver our aim.
This diversity is not just about the LGBTQ+ community, however, research shows that over 50% of LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced discrimination when accessing services. In our services, we are helping over 30% of people who identify as LGBTQ+, but we all know these figures don’t truly represent the people who identify as non-heterosexual, so we need to align more with this community. We need to be more diverse in terms of ethnicity too, so people feel more represented, in addition to the various factors which make people feel marginalised.
[…] To be more diverse, we advertise in specific areas of the media to try and attract staff from more diverse backgrounds so those we are supporting feel represented. We welcome diversity and have a range of equity groups to celebrate differences across the organisation. By being more diverse, we can be a more effective organisation. We challenge ourselves in our service delivery and try to take any self-consciousness we feel to help better our allyship to deliver better services.
[…]The final thing we work to do is to create psychologically informed environments for both our staff and the young people we support. This is about having a physical environment that feels welcoming to the individual who needs it, a space they feel they can stay in because they’re supported. The approach is further driven by staff and helps create a person-centred environment to make the people who need Centrepoint feel safe accessing the service.
No organisation is perfect but to be effective in the social space we need to be aligned to the person.
MGC: Centrepoint launched its strategy to end youth homelessness by 2037 last year. What steps has Centrepoint taken so far to reach this goal?
Ed: Centrepoint has signed up to a strategy to end youth homelessness by 2037. Why is it 2037? We launched the strategy in 2021 so setting the goal for 2037 means that anyone born in 2021 will not have to face youth homelessness. If they do face homelessness then there will be services in place to help prevent it from happening.
It is a hugely ambitious aim, and Centrepoint cannot do it alone. We need to work in partnership. If we are going to make this level of difference then there needs to be a change in social consciousness towards homelessness. Social consciousness, we hope, will improve legislation, housing and alignment of society with resources.
We need to create a movement.
We want members of the public to support and advocate the cause, we want to do more in the media as well as work around policy. We are trying to align more of our services to be best practice, and by this we mean we would conduct external evaluations on services. Publicising these evaluations will help set the bar for commissioners and future legislation from central government about homelessness.
It is unrealistic to think that in 2037 no one will become homeless, because most likely the housing crisis will not have been solved by then. What we can do though, as a society, is view homelessness as something so intolerable it’s considered an emergency. By considering it to be an emergency, there will be more resources in place to help people.
We do not anticipate at Centrepoint that we can go and build 100,000 new homes nationwide to house the youth homeless population. Instead, it’s about being aware of the issue and creating one big push for homelessness to be seen as intolerable across society. This change in social consciousness is what will help end homelessness.
- Leadership from central government is pivotal to ending homelessness.
- There needs to be honesty in the numbers of rough sleepers, with accurate figures, so the government have a real idea of what is needed to end rough sleeping.
- To form the best partnerships, organisations need to deliver complimentary services so those they are helping get the person-centred aid they need.
- As a society we need to see homelessness as intolerable, by changing our social consciousness towards the issue, we are more likely to end homelessness.
 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Prime minister pledges new action to eliminate homelessness and rough sleeping, (2019)
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