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A place to call my own

In a piece cross-posted from her personal blog, Tamsin Stirling reflects on a seminar focussing on housing and homelessness for young people.

On Wednesday 31 January 2018, I attended a seminar put on by Shelter Cymru and Bron Afon. It was called Locked Out and focused on young people, their housing aspirations and options. Very kindly, the organisers had asked me to speak about my Making Youth Homelessness Everybody’s Business travel fellowship and share some of my observations from spending time in California and Canada. Here is my presentation From across the pond

Jointly chaired by John Puzey and Ian Simpson, the seminar provided plenty of food for thought.

Lynne Neagle AM talked about her work as Chair of the National Assembly Children, Young People and Education Committee, in particular their inquiry into the emotional and mental health of children and young people. Her commitment to improving cross-sector working so that children and young people across Wales can get access to the support that they need was very clear.

Sam Austin from Llamau and Samantha Howells from Charter Housing spoke about their work supporting young people to talk to their peers about their housing aspirations and what they wanted from a home. The headline message was that young people want ‘a place to call my own’. Hardly surprising. The four key themes identified from focus groups of young people and a facebook survey were safety, support, education and choice. So it’s not just bricks and mortar that make a home, but all kinds of relationships. Again, not that surprising, but a good challenge to how much we, in the housing profession, tend to focus on the bricks and mortar.

Workshops at the seminar looked at the experience of Newydd Housing and their Rooms4U partnership, Bron Afon’s approach to working with young people to identify housing and support options that work for them, Shelter Cymru’s work in school including their Housemate pack and also feature a positive discussion with a DWP representative about how young people can best be supported.

A very worrying finding from the young people’s focus groups was that some young people saw sleeping on the street as a realistic housing option for them. This should not be part of our reality in Wales in 2018. However, I came away from the seminar feeling positive; there is a lot of energy, focus and commitment around getting housing and support for young people right despite a very challenging context when it comes to the welfare system, wage levels and supply of homes, just to mention a few issues.

The biggest thing I took away from the event, and which really resonates with so much that I heard in California and Canada is the need to respect young people as the experts in their own lives. We need to do this consistently and as part of this, involve them in decision making and shaping things that affect them – true co-production at a national level, as well as the good work that already goes on at a local level in many places in Wales.

How about supporting the development of a group of young people with lived experience of homelessness from across Wales? Independently facilitated and supported, to co-produce priorities for the £10million new monies that have recently been announced for youth homelessness and have a direct role in the decisions about where the money will be invested and in what services/initiatives? There is just such a group in place in America from which we could learn.

The National Youth Forum on Homelessness in America is supported by the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the True Colours Fund. The Forum aims to ‘create youth-led change in the national response to end youth homelessness’ and has already ‘profoundly shaped’ the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Programme.

Young people have said they want a place to call their own – let’s really make that happen.

Cross-posted with permission from Tamsin’s own blog here https://tamsinstirlingblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/a-place-to-call-my-own/

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