Ten professionals, two countries - Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2014

Monday, 8 December 2014 - 9:00am

This summer, ten homelessness professionals from England and the United States took part in a Transatlantic Practice Exchange. All asked a single question: what can we learn from each other's most innovative practices? We've published their answers in a single volume.

The nature of public services in England is changing. The perception of and the public value that they create is being challenged.

Welfare reform, funding changes, increased localisation and changing demographics have produced significant challenges to the way that things are done.

Often seen as threats to the way that we provide services, such circumstances also provide opportunities to rethink how, as homelessness services, we create public value for the people that we serve and the wider population.

The Transatlantic Practice Exchange was designed against this backdrop to provide a space for new thinking about the ways that we deliver services.

This year, five front line staff from England travelled to the USA, and five from the USA visited England, to explore different ways of delivering homelessness services. The structure of the placements enabled participants to develop an understanding of the context in which these services operate, giving them a unique insight into how things can be done differently - and also why they are done differently.

You'll see two overarching themes in the reports from the English participants – the need for therapeutic interventions and the need to challenge the short term nature of support in the UK.

The need for therapeutic interventions

A lot of emphasis has been put on the role of homeless services in providing therapeutic interventions - in particular the need to understand trauma as a support need for people who become homeless and to work with staff to understand how to offer less structure, holistic therapeutic services that will enable them to access long term mainstream support.

Challenging the short term nature of support in the UK

Traditionally, homelessness and supported housing solutions have been offered as transitional services. There is increasing awareness that this creates, for some clients a revolving door at the point where support is withdrawn.

Three of the English participants show how working long term with people who have complex needs can lead to better outcomes and reduce the cost of repeated use of expensive crisis services. With an aging population, an increasing proportion of the UK's homeless population are over 55. They exist in the margins between 'mainstream homelessness services' and elderly care services. Again the Exchange showed that tailored and permanent accommodation for this group is a cost effective model.

Learning from English services

The five US participants took similarly valuable experiences home from their time in England, finding inspiration from Depaul’s Nightstops and Reconnect services, hospital discharge strategies in Brighton, the Making Every Adult Matter approach in Cambridge, and Psychogically Informed Environments and No Second Night Out in London.

Read all ten accounts of the Exchange

We have brought together the accounts in a single publication.

Written by the exchange participants themselves these reports include key findings as well as personal insights. All offer a fresh perspective on how we tackle homelessness on both sides of the Atlantic today.

As Nan Roman - CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness - says in her introduction to the publication: in spite of all the innovation on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years “significant gaps in our knowledge remain, and there is much more that we need to learn or discover.”

Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2014

Reports from 10 frontline professionals on an international exchange of knowledge and practice. Exchanges took place between May and July 2014, with participants spending up to two weeks on placement with their hosts and other local organisations.

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