Reimagining the system
In 2018 we held face to face workshops with a number of people who identified as being houseless or homeless. Our framing around these workshops was partially about having the space to reimagine the system of housing and supports, and what that could look like. This work formed part of a longer strategic partnership informing the SA Housing and Homelessness Strategy report that was released in 2019.
People from both ends of the ageing spectrum, including people with a chronic experience of homelessness, survivors of domestic family violence, people with disability and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people shared their experiences with us.
They articulated the issues they faced on a daily basis and were able to surface the ideas they saw as potential solutions to the system. Additionally we heard from men and women who had experienced homelessness and who themselves ideated a raft of inventive and engaging ideas that could provide the platform for a more holistic approach.
What we saw is that they have the very ability to be the architects of a better system.
What they identified is that the solutions are much more than just a roof over your head.
What we found was four identifiable assets powering their ability to see opportunities to build a better system.
- Their experiences have meant they have to be highly resourceful and make scarcity go far.
- They have honed skills in troubleshooting.
- They know what makes a good home beyond shelter, because of the absence of (other more material) important things.
- They are aware of themselves, and that they cannot address some of the challenges alone.
What emerged from these workshops with people with lived experience, is not that we don’t know the problems the system has, but that these people should be part of shaping the solutions, and actively valued as pioneers in their own lives.
The systemic treatment of homelessness
Systemically homelessness is approached in a cyclical way with homeless people experiencing multiple services, and can find themselves moving from one to the next due to a multitude of factors outside of their control. This is not new, this is known within the system and certainly has a deep impact on their ability to live life. It is important to note that all these services are doing the best they can within the system, and frustration is often felt by employees within these services. A re-engineering of the system is well overdue, for all people engaging systemically.
Opportunities for change
There are however multiple opportunities for change. The system itself is experiencing many blockages preventing the flow of people into the best housing solution for them.
The system often views the response to homelessness in a siloed way by viewing all the components of housing and supports separately. A fluid system that looks at the person as a whole does not currently exist with part of the challenge, we heard though lived experience, the deep role trauma has in people’s lives. It’s not just about acquiring a home, it’s about the supports and the relearning of how to have a home that is also an identifiable challenge for many homeless people. Add to that that, many are well networked on the street with a move into housing a removal of those vital informal supports.
These are real people with real initiative, who can identify what their problems are and are able to articulate what challenges they face. These are people who face stereotyping about who they are and how they have come into this situation, when often the reality is far different. With public housing in short supply the removal of choice is also a factor in play within the system.