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Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2016: let the learning begin...

Blog posted by: Tasmin Maitland, monday, 25 April 2016.

The 2016 Transatlantic Practice Exchange started last week, with the arrival of Rachel Yoder to learn about youth homelessness in England from Depaul UK.

I’ve been asked why we’re sending people to learn from the US when rough sleeping numbers there are so high, but it’s the difference in scale, systems and challenges faced that creates a valuable opportunity to learn. Participants have to ask “why?” and constantly test their assumptions, prompting a level of learning and reflection that is hard to achieve in our normal working environment.

In preparing the 2016-18 Transatlantic Practice Exchange I spent a week in Washington DC and Boston, hosted by our partner the National Alliance to End Homelessness to learn more about how funding and commissioning works in the US. It was valuable to learn about homelessness free of the assumptions and experiences that shape my view of the English sector. For example, to draw down funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), local agencies have to bid as part of a multi-agency consortium called a Continuum of Care (CoC). This requirement promotes local partnership working and systems thinking. It also enables HUD to incentivise the adoption of good practice by CoCs, for example by targeting funding to Housing First projects so that new models are introduced by multiple locations who might otherwise have been wary of change. It’s been useful to contrast this approach with the competitive funding environment in which English providers typically operate, and to think about how the positive elements of the US model could be replicated within the more fragmented context of English localism.

I’m keen to share UK participants’ learning with other homelessness staff. In the US many support workers are qualified in social work to Masters level. Teams apply more consistent theoretical approaches to their support work and are better able to articulate their organisational attitude to support. I’d like to know if we can find ways to improve staff support and morale in our homelessness services by looking at team consistency, as well as exploring what we might risk losing in the process.

In the coming months we’ll support 10 people to complete their Exchange placements on topics including shared team ethos, emergency healthcare, Housing First, complex needs and assertive outreach. Each participant will be looking for opportunities to replicate or adapt practice to their local context, and will write blogs and a report on their findings. There’ll be another opportunity for you to apply for a place on the 2017 Exchange towards the end of the year.

To see the full list of participants and topics here, and follow their progress on Twitter using #homelesslearning. Also a big thank this year’s UK hosts: Depaul UK, Thames Reach, Changing Lives, St Basil’s and Framework for volunteering their time to host our US placements.

A few words from Rachel on her placement with Depaul UK

I’m excited to be the first placement for this year’s Exchange! I’m the Strategic Initiatives Manager atProject HOME in Philadelphia, PA. We provide comprehensive housing and services to end and prevent homelessness and address the underlying causes poverty: Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care (physical and behavioral), and Education. I work under the umbrella of the Middleton Partnership – a $300 million public/private partnership to address chronic street homelessness, homeless persons with addiction, and young adults who are homeless. This will be my focus while in the UK.

I’m placed with Depaul UK in London and will be studying best practices for serving young adults, specifically the Positive Pathway framework and how it supports a community in developing and implementing a unified plan to end and prevent young adult homelessness. My goal is to better understand the UK’s approach to serving young adults and the tools and partnerships that are in place to support a coordinated approach, for replication in the US. I hope knowledge gained through the Exchange will support Project HOME as we expand our ability to serve young adults and the Philadelphia community as we build momentum toward creating a unified young adult housing plan.

Learn more on Rachel’s blog: racheldyoder.wordpress.com


Channel website: http://www.homelesslink.org.uk

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