Homelessness away from Home: researching alternative approaches to addressing homelessness

Published: 30 Sep 2016

Author: John Cassap
Homelessness away from Home: researching alternative approaches to addressing homelessness

John Cassap is an Assertive Outreach Worker from Sunderland. He works for Changing Lives, a charity which provides support to people who are experiencing an array of issues, mostly around homelessness. He has recently returned to the UK after six weeks travelling in the USA exploring new and alternative ways of addressing homelessness. His travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award.

John’s first destination was New Orleans. John wanted to learn how the city has recovered from a massive increase in the number of homeless citizens due to Hurricane Katrina. At a meeting with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), John heard about how different agencies had mobilised and worked together after the disaster.

We were all impacted, 80% of the City was flooded at different levels. HUD’s own office was destroyed. Staff experienced flooding, mental damage from the disaster, concerns around family but still came into the office to support others. The team still had the commitment to help, even though experiencing it themselves" -Crystal Jones-Taylor, Senior Management Analyst and Team Lead, HUD

He then went to New York City and met with a number of organisations which are providing support to people with multiple and complex needs. Highlights included accompanying a mobile outreach team as they toured the city checking on the known rough sleepers and also responding to reports of new sightings, and a visit to a homeless Veteran accommodation project, where pet therapy is being used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The American cities I visited have adapted their way of practice, especially in the case of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Their work around veterans was especially impressive, as New Orleans was the first city to operate with a functional zero in relation to homelessness among former servicemen and women. Numbers of people struggling with multiple and complex needs resulting in homelessness in New York is high, and I was very inspired by the collaborative efforts to address this issue” –John Cassap

Since returning to the UK, John has written a report based on his findings and has disseminated this through Changing Lives’ website and social media channels. He will also be giving presentations in person to Sunderland Armed Forces Network, Homeless Link and the Sunderland City Council Access to Housing Team, as well as staff in his own organisation.

Additionally, Changing Lives have been awarded funding by the Royal British Legion to set up a new service for homeless veterans, and they will be looking at how they can incorporate John’s learning into this service as it develops.

Read John’s report here

Notes to Editors

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