From Jungle Camp to No 10: Amy Varle’s story
Published: 6 Nov 2018
Housing consultant Amy Varle is on a mission to tackle homelessness, and she’s taking her ideas to the very top. In January this year, she presented her Churchill Fellowship research on new approaches for homelessness to 10 Downing Street at the request of the Prime Minister.
“My work is supported by an amazing corporate sponsor, Susan Dolan of SEO Web Marketing. At a charitable event in Downing Street, Susan got the chance to speak to the Prime Minister, who said she would be very interested in reading my Fellowship report.
“Walking down Downing Street was the most surreal, yet proud moment. Having spent four years working on this project, making many personal sacrifices along the way, it was very special to close it in such an iconic place. I was able to take along Susan, as well as my daughter, partner, Mum and Stepdad. My Mum was so proud. It was a cool reason for my daughter Bella to take the day off school!”
Amy’s work in addressing homelessness is focussed around Housing First, an approach that offers immediate, permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, as well as access to a bespoke package of long-term support services designed around each individual. “It’s compassionate, it’s cost-effective and it really works,” she says. “Over 80% of people accessing Housing First schemes will remain stable in their homes after one year or more.”
Projects Amy visited on her Fellowship in the USA in 2016, such as DISH (Delivering Innovation in Supported Housing) in San Francisco, convinced her of the value of Housing First. She also visited the Silicon Valley Jungle Camps. “I visited people who were living in absolute crisis and chaos. It was hard not to be affected by their desperate situations. When I arrived at DISH, I felt an immediate sense of hope. The more time I spent talking to residents and staff, who work together closely to create a harmonious and supportive living environment, the more inspired I felt.”
Below: Amy at the Silicon Valley jungle camps
Amy has been tasked with leading the creation of a flagship centre for homeless people in Manchester, following the Government’s announcement in the Autumn 2017 Budget of new Housing First pilot schemes. These plans have been expanded and she is now working in conjunction with Fairhome Group, an established national care provider, to create a number of these centres across the country. “We have spent a lot of time talking to people experiencing homelessness and designing our services around the very diverse needs they have. We have some amazing solutions in the pipeline and I’m thrilled to be involved.”
The centres will provide immediate access to on-site accommodation and provision for essential support such as healthcare, life-skills training and assistance with claiming benefits. A network of donated private services will be available to users, including specialist trauma counselling and one-on-one coaching for professional development.
Amy, who experienced homelessness herself as a teenager, believes that involving those who use the centres in the design and delivery of its services will be key to their success. “Our service has been informed by each and every conversation I have had with rough sleepers about what they need. We will be employing one of our incredible tenants, who was a rough sleeper. She will add considerable value to our enterprise and I hope she will be the first of many. This is very much a project that is for the homeless, by the homeless.”
A version of this article was first published in our 2018 newsletter. Read it here