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Focus on Glasgow (UK): Report of a peer visit

Edited on

07 April 2022
Read time: 13 minutes

By Euan McGlynn

After two years of online video calls and back and forth emailing in the wake of the pandemic, Glasgow welcomed representatives from across the nine ROOF cities for a peer learning visit. On the 14th and 15th March, Glasgow set out to share with our visitors how the city is working to end homelessness across the city now, the practices we have in place to prevent homelessness as well as sharing our plan to eradicate homelessness from society. Being able to host this event in person was of huge benefit, as it was important to us not just to explain the how the actions already in place are having an impact, but to speak to those at the heart of the issue in Glasgow. This ability to connect just cannot be replicated through online communication and sets us up well for the final event in Ghent in May.


Day 1 of the peer visit was hosted in one of Glasgow’s most famous buildings, The Lighthouse. Based in the city centre the lighthouse is a hub for creative output and is Scotland’s national centre for design and architecture, making it the perfect place to work with our colleagues from across Europe.

After a formal welcome to the city, our visitors were set some homework. The theme of the visit was inspiration, and the Glasgow project Co-ordinator, Marie McLelland, set the team a task. Glasgow wanted to hear what inspired them over the two days, what they would take away from the visit and what opportunities they saw for the future. At the end of the visit, we would collectively reflect and gather our inspirational learning.

With that in mind, the first session began with Claire Frew of the Homelessness Network Scotland, an organisation that brings together several national and local organisations and sectors to lead change. A key aspect of their model is to inform housing policy and practice with lived experience and help shape the decision-making process. Claire outlined the national perspective on homelessness, where housing first has been implemented as well as the ambition for rolling out the model further in the future.

Our next speaker on the morning of day one was Jim McBride of the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).  The HSCP provide a range of community health and social care services for children, adults and older people within Glasgow, along with services for homelessness and criminal justice. Jim spoke about the homelessness in Glasgow, how it is monitored and the infrastructure in place to manage it.

Glasgow’s focus is on an upstream approach, tackling homelessness through prevention rather than increasing the need for interventions such as night shelters. Glasgow wants to reach a point where temporary accommodation isn’t needed, and everyone has a home to call their own.

After just two session, it was evident that the issue of homelessness is intertwined with the wider issue of poverty, in particular, child poverty. Evidence show child poverty is a major contributor to homelessness in adulthood and without combining the efforts to overcome this, the problem of homelessness will continue to exist in the city.

For the afternoon session on day one, we welcomed members of Queens Cross Housing Association, a social housing provider who deliver a successful housing first programme to a number of young people in the city. For this session we split our visitors into three groups and each group were given the opportunity to have in depth discussions with expert practitioners and those who have lived experience of housing first. Queen’s Cross’s approach is tailored heavily to the individual. Building relationships between the support worker and tenant is key to this. It was evident as we gathered the learning from the day, that the testimony from workers and those who receive support from the team was an inspiring experience.

After an intense day of learning from all our guests on day 1, our team reflected on the sessions before reconvening the next day at the Centre for Civic Innovation hub in Greater Pollok.

Our design lead, Stevie McGowan, welcomed our visitors to the Centre for Civic Innovation (CCI). The CCI is a multi-disciplinary team within Glasgow City Council who use a design-led approach to find solutions to some of the city’s biggest challenges. They have been tasked with working across the local authority to embed a new way of solving problems and stimulate collaborative working, in particular, putting citizens at the heart of how decisions are made and solutions are found.

Since the CCI’s formation it has been working to address the disconnect between people and policy, that contributes disadvantage and inequality. Homelessness is at the forefront of the city agenda and a lot of the CCI’s focus has been working with ROOF partners on this issue. In their bid to enforce change, they are working at a local, neighbourhood level with organisations and citizens to create connectivity across their neighbourhoods and build a better future together.

In the spirit of this joined up approach, we followed our introduction to the CCI with a World Café style session with three members from local Social Housing providers in Pollok. Jean Murray of the Glenoaks Housing Association, Sharon Buchanan of the Rosehill Housing Cooperative and Anthony Morrow of Sanctuary Housing who spoke to our visitors about the service each of the organisations provides in one of the largest neighbourhoods in the city. Between them they provide and maintain around 5,000 social housing units in the Greater Pollok area. Splitting into smaller groups our networks were enlightened from the information shared by each of these organisations, offering a different insight to present day challenges and opportunities for the future.

The next session was from Paul Wood, Principal officer for the Private Rented Sector Support Hub. Paul gave the group an in depth talk about the Private Rented Sector Support Hub which focuses on preventing homelessness in the private rented sector, improving tenant’s financial situation and mental health as well as raising the safety and quality of private rented properties in the city, particularly for families and children.

To round off a comprehensive morning of learning on Day 2, Anthony and Kevin from Sanctuary Housing spoke in more detail about the holistic support service they provide in the Pollok area. This was a more interactive session where they outlined the importance of hope, empathy, kindness and care when working with people in the area. Helping those who approach the service and making them believe that better things are just around the corner as well as appealing to those who are hesitant about reaching out to the team.

The last group who came to visit the Centre for Civic Innovation were Helen and Lauren from the Village Storytelling Centre, who shared their expertise in applied storytelling, in particular working with Glasgow’s largest homelessness organisation, The Simon Community. They highlighted the importance of empathy and consent have when we have been given the opportunity of sharing the story of others and why those who own the story should feel comfortable and in control of the narrative.

After an exhausting but informative two days, Glasgow said goodbye to our visitors from the ROOF network.

We hope we achieved our aim of brining together different voices to learn with and share different perspectives that were inspirational. We tried to weave through the two days the stories of those with lived experience and those delivering services with care and compassion. We wanted to learn too and have taken the two days of conversations to help inform our Integrated Action Plan. Ultimately, everyone has the same ambition to end homelessness for good. 9 Cities. 1 Goal. End Homelessness.