In November 2015, Glasgow Housing Support and Prevention Services were given an opportunity to explore the issue of repeat homelessness in Glasgow and to reflect on our role locally in helping those with the most complex needs. We were given the space and resources to embark on an 18 month action research project that would be underpinned by the notion that we have a lot to learn from people, not about them; the Glasgow Participation Project kicked off in January 2016.

The Glasgow Participation Project strives for a mutual and inquisitive space for us to work with those that have experienced repeat homelessness, co-producing a response that aims to offer the right approach at the right time for those experiencing a cycle of homelessness or at risk of doing so. From the offset, while we wanted to make sure that anyone we currently support can contribute, we wanted to preoccupy ourselves with who was missing from the table, engaging with those who are farthest from our services in the Glasgow Hub; we asked ourselves ‘who wouldn’t walk through our door and why?’

The project has 3 key phases;

  • Dialogue – interviewing those who are or have been in a cycle of repeat homelessness across a range of community organisations in Glasgow.  Asking what successful support looks like from the perspective of those who receive help and bringing people together for a Conversation Café event to interpret the findings together.
  • Difference – Continuing dialogue but working together to try out what people have told us would make ‘the difference’. Doing things differently by taking action and reflecting on it together.
  • Doing – nurturing the change that works.

Following the conversation café, a group of people at different stages of experience with repeat homelessness came together in June 2016 to steer the direction of the action we needed to take. The commitment to 18 months of reflecting in action meant that we have been able to say ‘Let’s do this!’ rather than frame our conversations as a consultation. Following an initial period of exploring the power and purpose of their group, a name was chosen that would set the tone for impact: Time for Change (TfC). We are working together to test out new ideas not dependent on further funding while banking ideas to explore in the longer term.

8 months on and into phase 2, the project staff and TfC are taking stock of what we have learned so far;

 We need to balance assistance with opportunity to connect and inspire in paid or unpaid roles.

We need to be in the community in different ways to be on the spot and front of mind.

 We need to assist people in ways that are more flexible.

We need to work with others providing services to fill gaps and we need to tailor how we work with them, going beyond just another referral to genuine partnerships as varied as the organisations.

We need to nurture activism through our campaigns, when you’ve lived ‘homelessness’ you can connect the personal and political in a compelling way.

The focus for phase two is in getting right how we balance assistance with opportunity so that we can continue to act on all of these points together. Working closely with TfC, we aim to get it right for contributors with lived experience from the inception, a responsibility that is taken seriously by the group with around half of members putting themselves forward to pioneer and test drive their own peer mentor programme, feeding forward their live experience into the conversation rather than feeding back on a programme designed for them. The evolving peer mentor programme has been named “Shelter Scotland’s GPS” (Glasgow Peer Support), priding itself in starting with an understanding of people’s strengths, motivations and aspirations in order to set them on a rewarding track with Shelter Scotland while ensuring mechanisms for them to direct us towards different approaches that work for those with the most complex needs. Our aim is to ensure that contributors don’t just share the ‘to do’ list but share the influence of Shelter Scotland and harness it with us.

Shelter Scotland’s GPS is a ‘work in progress’, setting us in the right direction to positively disrupt the status quo in ways that set a benchmark for ‘better’ from the perspective of those who need things to change. Watch this space.